Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory hopes his strikers can find the net more often after the franchise got their first win in the sixth edition of Indian Super League after a dramatic 2-1 win against Hyderabad FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Monday.
The two-time champions took the lead through substitute Andre Schembri in injury time before Matthew Kilgallon restored parity two minutes later. Chennaiyin, however, found the winner immediately after, through Nerijus Valskis in the last minute of extra time.
The Englishman spoke of how he pleased that the efforts of his players were finally rewarded.
“I’m pleased for the players. They put in a lot of hard work,” Gregory said after the match. “I get very frustrated sometimes when we play some good football and get into the last third of the pitch, and then suddenly someone crosses the ball behind the goal. I always want it to be perfect. We deserved the victory without any question, but I wish it had been a little bit more comfortable.”
Chennaiyin dominated the match on the night but the goal just would not come in the regular 90 minutes. They had a total of nine shots on target on the night compared to Hyderabad’s three.
“We had a lot of chances, lot of possession and lot of half chances in the box. (Lallianzuala) Chhangte got in some very good positions in the first half in particular but was never able to pick out a striker in the box. We hit the post. It just looked like it was going to carry on like it has been, being so close yet so far,” Gregory said.
“Andre (Schembri) and Nerijus (Valskis), those two in particular, you see them on the training ground, they score goals on regular occasions. They’re such good finishers. I’ve been somewhat shocked that in the four games, they haven’t managed to get a goal between them. But they’ve persevered at it. Andre took his goal very well, and Nerijus really showed quality. And that was the reason why I bought both him and Andre because I know they can score goals. I just hope for the pair of them and the team, this is the start of more goals to come, and more victories,” he added.
Gregory had, not too long ago, hinted that he might have to resign and move on after a dreadful start to the season but the signs now are that he is staying on as he thanked co-owner Vita Dani for her support.
The 65-year-old looked ahead to the coming matches and maintained that Chennaiyin’s target this season is to reach the playoffs.
“We are aiming for the playoffs. That’s where we want to be. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t get into the playoffs. We looked at Season 2 when we actually lost six matches out of 14, but we won seven. I think we finished third. That’s possible for us. It was a good result for us on Sunday, with Odisha only getting a draw with ATK. It keeps everybody within range. The Hyderabad result is very important, but Thursday’s result will be more important,” he said.
Gregory’s compatriot Phil Brown was a disappointed man after his side slumped to yet another defeat this season.
“I think our best players were Matthew and Gurtej (Singh). Chennaiyin have pace on the wings, and I have two centre-backs who were tested on the pace perspective. They stepped up to it. Consequently, they gave the wingbacks a chance to play more ahead,” Brown said.
“But I don’t want my centre-backs to be my best players. I want my attacking players to be the best players. No disrespect to any of my defenders. For 90 minutes we had a clean sheet. In 97 minutes, we were beaten 2-1. A little bit of mentality is needed to work with. The late defeats hurt me, and I told my players that if these defeats don’t hurt you then I don’t want them in my changing room,” the 60-year-old added.
(With Indian Super League inputs)