Schattorie: Happy with Sahal and people questioning that are not supporters

After back-to-back losses, Kerala Blasters FC will look to bounce back at home when they host newcomers Odisha FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday. It has been a mixed start to the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 season for Eelco Schattorie and Co., who won the season opener against ATK at home, but slumped to consecutive losses in their subsequent fixtures against Mumbai City FC and Hyderabad FC.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference, Kerala head coach Schattorie singled out the team’s inability to properly defend against set-pieces as the detrimental factor behind their losses so far and stated, “Most of the goals we conceded are from set pieces. In the Mumbai game, two players didn’t do their defensive duty from a throw in. It’s not a blame but things we could have avoided. In the last match (against Hyderabad), it was exactly the same. If basic structures are not in place, you will suffer. We should have won the last match. We should have mentally stood up and won that game.”

The Dutchman then moved on to highlight the several injury concerns plaguing the side and reiterated the importance of getting through the next match with some points to go into the upcoming international break in order to recuperate. “Our wingers at the moment are not very stable. In our midfield, we are missing a key player who can take the game to the opposition. In defence, we lost, in the last game, Gianni Zuiverloon, who does the build-up. So, we also lost a key player there. At this moment, it’s all about surviving and creating stability by working hard. Let me emphasize on the fact that in all three games, the players gave their heart and everything they had.”

“I am happy to survive this game with three points or maybe one and get to the break. Hopefully we will get some time to recover. Hopefully in the coming game, we can stick together, get the support from the fans and get through this to get into the break,” he added.

One of the big talking points surrounding the Blasters camp so far has been Schattorie’s apparent reluctance to play Hero ISL 2018-19 Emerging Player of the Season and Kerala fan-favourite Sahal Abdul Samad. The 22-year-old, so far, has only seen 78 minutes of game time over three matches, giving rise to speculations that Schattorie might not be too happy with the India international. Addressing the matter, the enigmatic Dutchman debunked the rumours with sharp words and declared, “I will always support talent. Certain people may think the head coach doesn’t like Sahal. I emphasize, in big capital letters, that I am very very happy to have him in my team. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at the reality. Sahal comes from a football school in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, I think, never played competitive football in his life before this. He has amazing creative ability which is pure intuition. Fitting someone like him into the system takes time. I worked with a few similar talents last season (at NorthEast). It takes time to incorporate these boys in the team,”

“In the game against Mumbai, I told Sahal first do your defensive duties and when you get the opportunity, use your creativity. In the last match, he made a mistake. We didn’t lose the match because of him but these small things matter. I have discussed it with Sahal himself, so it’s not like I am criticizing him. There’s nothing negative about it because that’s football. I reiterate, I am very happy with Sahal and people questioning that are not supporters. I will always try and stimulate talent. There’s not one player in the team who thinks I don’t trust him,” he further elaborated.

The Kerala head coach also had some glowing words of praise for defender Jessel Carneiro, who had accompanied him to the briefing. Asked about his experience so far in the Hero ISL, the 29-year-old said, “I was waiting for a chance to play in the Hero ISL and now I have an opportunity with Kerala Blasters to prove myself and show what I can do.”

Read the Match Preview here.

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