Chennaiyin FC head coach Owen Coyle feels optimistic about the upcoming playoffs although his team suffered a 4-1 defeat to FC Goa in their final league game of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Sunday.

The Marina Machans got right into business, finding their opener within 13 minutes from kick-off when Rahim Ali drilled in his effort past the keeper. But Borja Herrera brought the Gaurs right back into the game with a close-range finish just after the half-hour mark. Things worsened for the away team with Sachu Siby getting sent off for a reckless challenge on Boris Singh. Carlos Martinez converted the resulting spot kick with ease to give his team the lead, turning the tide towards FC Goa. With another one from Brandon Fernandes and a second goal from Martinez, FC Goa took home all three points, finishing the match with a 4-1 win. 

The Chennaiyin FC head coach doesn’t want to think too much about the result as he had made many changes to his starting eleven to give opportunity to other players apart from his regular starters. Although FC Goa dominated majority of the match and netted four goals, Coyle was happy with how the team performed in the first 30 minutes of the game.

The result wasn't important for us tonight. We'd obviously worked so hard. And you can see that I made nine changes. I mean, that's not the team that's going to take the field in the playoffs by any manner of means. We were excellent first 30 minutes. Outstanding. Probably should have, certainly should have been a minimum of two in front. Probably could have been three in front. Some great play from the lads came in,” he stated in the post-match press conference.

He added: “FC Goa are a very good side when they pass the ball. When you give them time which we did, we've lost a goal from a throw and it was so easily avoidable. And we've allowed Carlos (Martinez) to stand in the box unmarked, which you can't do at this level.”

“And then you can see the third goal that kind of killed us just before half time. So I said at half time what we had to do really, the truth, and you've probably seen the way we shaped up in the second half was to conserve our energy, make sure we do any shape, two lines of four. With the striker, keep a solid shape. We didn't have to get back in. We just had to make sure we conserved our energy where we could because we had only ten men. And that's how we played out the second half. Obviously, we lost the second half 1-0 with 10 men but the boys applied themselves to their jobs. We had a couple of good chances as well." 

The playoffs begin on April 19 with Chennaiyin FC set to face the team that finishes third in the stadings. FC Goa moved up to the second spot following their win over Chennaiyin FC but could drop down to the third spot again, should Mohun Bagan Super Giant lose their final game to Mumbai City FC on Monday, which will also be the decider for the Shield. Coyle expressed his wishes to his opposition and said he will look forward to coming to Goa again, if the two sides are drawn against each other in the one-legged knockout fixture. 

"Good luck to FC Goa. We know they still have a chance of finishing second. If we come back here, we'll be ready for it. And trust me, we will be looking forward to it. Because I've seen enough tonight to know that we can make a real impact in that game," Coyle expressed. 

“I've got full respect and admiration (for FC Goa). But in terms of coming to the game, yeah I'll be looking forward to it with my best team for sure,” he further said.

The 57-year-old wrapped up the press conference with an optimistic approach towards the challenge of the upcoming playoffs and has faith that with his best starting eleven, he can take on any team. 

“I have in my mind the team I know that can go and cause problems with any team in this league when we're at our best. When I've got my best 11 on the field, I can stand toe to toe with anybody and that's what I look to do,” he signed off.