The Mariners coach, Karim Bencherifa was quick to praise the character shown by his team, as he commented, “We started well in the game, but Pune FC soon took over the proceedings. But we reacted well after going back in the second half. We kept believing and showed great fighting spirit as a team. The point is a great credit to them, as at the moment it is very difficult to get a positive result, due to the various issues related to the team.”
“The Pune FC squad is a very stable and talented unit, so 2-2 is not a bad result against them, with all the injuries that we have suffered. We also played some good football and could have avoided conceding the two goals. For the second goal, Echezona Anyichie was off the field for treatment and hence we were effectively a man down,” the Moroccan added.
The former Salgaocar coach conceded that his team was perhaps not physically at its peak, as several players suffered from cramp and other muscle injuries as the game progressed. Bencherifa conceded, “Endurance wise, we are behind from where we should be. At the moment we have several injury issues, and are relying on our fighting spirit to keep us going. Even today, Aibor Khongjee and Anyichie picked up hamstring injuries.”
The Mohun Bagan coach refused to give up on the I-League title, but also insisted that he was focusing exclusively on the derby against East Bengal. He revealed, “The I-League table can often go crazy. But at the moment we are concentrating on putting the team on the right track. Before the derby, this is the result that shall re-charge us mentally. Psychologically, this result is perhaps more vital than three points, as otherwise it would have been a very negative result.”
The Mariners looked set for a defeat against Pune FC, before talismanic striker Odafa Okolie popped up with a brace. Bencherifa was quick to praise his striker, but also pointed out that he has several youngsters, who could go on to star like the Nigerian.
“Odafa was great and he is very important for us. But we are not dependent only on our big stars, and we have youngsters like Manish Bhargav, who are still learning. It is our task to bring them on the right track.”
While Odafa was dominant on the field, off it, he was involved in a tussle with Pune FC’s James Moga and Anas Edathodika, after the South Sudanese striker had asked the referee to get the Nigerian off the field for treatment, as the Red Lizards looked for a late winner.
Bencherifa though, tried to brush the incident under the carpet, as he stated, “Such things happen in football. They all calmed down later and nothing big really happened. They were angry and Odafa was disappointed with some things that were said, but it never got out of hand.”
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