John Gregory: We put a lot of faith in our defence

Chennaiyin FC progressed to their second final in Hero Indian Super League (ISL) after defeating FC Goa 3 – 0 in the second leg of the second semi-final of Hero ISL 2017-18 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Tuesday. Jeje Lalpekhlua scored a brace and Dhanpal Ganesh got the other goal as the hosts won 4 – 1 on aggregate. They set themselves up for a date with southern rivals Bengaluru FC in the grand finale and addressing the media during the post-match press-conference was their head coach John Gregory.

The Englishman was pleased to have kept faith with Jeje despite the forward’s recent goal drought. “He (Jeje) has always played the role of playing down the middle,” he explained. “It can be a lonely job, and sometimes when you don’t score, you don’t get any recognition of taking part in the game. But he has been working really hard. He put in so much tonight that he got a little bit of a cramp. But I supported him, and I always wanted him in the team. I knew he would always get a chance. And he just went out there and got two goals.”

Gregory explained the reason behind Chennaiyin’s solid display in such a crucial match. “Just like Goa put a lot of faith in their offensive play, we put a lot of faith in our defence,” he revealed. “To get into our team, you have to have the ability to work hard and have the energy to run for 90 minutes. The fitness levels our players have got enables us to play that way.”

However, Gregory did admit that his team survived an initial scare, following which they went through the gears. “We aren’t probably as technically gifted as Goa, and they pinned us back in the early stages,” conceded the 63-year-old. “And we couldn’t really do anything about it except for hanging in there and putting a huge responsibility on the defensive side of our play. But that has really been what our team has been built on this season; the ability to withstand huge amount of pressure.”

Elaborating further on the success of their defence, Gregory added: “We have got three foreign players in defence. Goa tend to load their other end with foreign players. So I have got three vastly experienced players playing with a 19-year-old left-back. And really I need to tell them once and they remember it and display it on the pitch. The three of them have been leaders on and off the pitch.”

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