Chennaiyin FC temporarily climbed to the summit of the Indian Super League (SL) table by beating FC Pune City 1-0 at the Marina Arena on Saturday evening. Gregory Nelson's strike in the 83rd minute was enough to seal full points against the Stallions.
Assistant coach Sabir Pasha was pleased with the efforts of his side and pointed that FC Pune City’s decision to sit back in the second half came back to haunt them..
“We deserved to win after the performance in the second half. Pune played well. They are a good strong attacking side and we defended really well. They could have won the game in the first half but in the second half we did really well. They had some changes. They started sitting back and went negative. I think that worked for us and we capitalised on it,” said Pasha.
The Marina Machans are on a five-match unbeaten streak since their 1-0 defeat to Mumbai City FC in an away game.
"Five unbeaten games – That shows how strong we are as a team. We are very good at defending and we are getting goals as well," said the 45-year-old.
Dhanpal Ganesh was lucky to avoid a red card after a string of fouls in the first half. However, Chennaiyin FC opted not to substitute him after the break.
“We were worried about Ganesh's situation and we asked him to be careful at the break. He showed some composure after the break and he is showing great focus,” replied Pasha.
For FC Pune City, Diego Carlos was the standout performer, who constantly threatened the Chennaiyin defenders cutting in from the left flank. Inigo Calderon looked off the pace as the Spanish defender came second best in his duel with the Brazilian.
Pasha said, "It was the problem of the midfielders who gave Pune's attackers a lot of space to play. They were able to penetrate us easily in the first half. And it is difficult to defend against Carlos and Calderon did all he could. I think our midfielders should have given him more protection.”
While Pune assistant Vladica Grujic complained about poor refereeing, Pasha suggested that it was a fair result overall.
“They gave us a penalty and we missed it. So it was fair enough I guess."
Raphael Augusto, who came on as a substitute in the second half of the match in place of Rene Mihelic, single-handedly changed the complexion of the game. Augusto brought some much needed firepower in his side's attack and also provided the assist for the goal.
On why Raphael was introduced late in the game, Pasha explained, "Pune are a good strong side. We needed good legs to press and harry them. We wanted to hold them till the 60th minute or so before unleashing Raphael later on. He is a very important player for us. The match's complexion changed after he came on and that was one of our strategies. If they had scored earlier, we would have brought him on earlier."