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ISL 2017-18: John Gregory - Chennaiyin are not thinking about the away goal

11:46 GMT 12/03/2018
Anirudh Thapa FC Goa Chennaiyin FC ISL
Gregory prioritised clean sheet ahead of Chennaiyin's second leg fixture against FC Goa...

Chennaiyin FC head coach John Gregory is not thinking about the away goal advantage that his side has when they take on FC Goa in the second leg of the Indian Super League (ISL) semi-final on Tuesday at the JLN Stadium in Chennai. 

Manuel Lanzarote and Anirudh Thapa scored second-half goals to share the spoils in the first-leg and the young midfielder's away goal gives a slight advantage to the Marina Machans for whom even a goalless draw will do on Tuesday.

"The most important thing tomorrow is to qualify, whatever it takes. We worked exceptionally hard the other night and we were disappointed that we did not convert some chances. We should have been ahead on goals but it was a hard-earned draw.

"Goa keep the ball for long periods and you have to work hard. We're delighted that we have an away goal but it is a minimal advantage. It is not something we're going to think about," said Gregory.

"Of course, if they score, it changes the complexion of the game. My players will be very aware of the situation in case we ship a goal. We're all fired up and ready to go."

Gregory has prepped his team to work hard without the ball and despite Goa dominating possession in the first leg, the Chennai-based team had more shots on target.

"Goa are a team that relies on playing possession football. To match them, we have to be defensively solid. They will play their way against any team, whether it is Bengaluru or NorthEast. To get the ball from them, you have to work hard and hold on to it when we get it.

"We play well with the ball but the other night we were not that good in that aspect. We both know our strengths and weaknesses. We keep a clean sheet and we go through. So that will be our first priority but there are so many permutations that can happen," said the former Aston Villa coach.

The coach also indicated that right-back Inigo Calderon could start the game despite being at the receiving end of a poor tackle from Ahmed Jahouh in their last game. 

"Inigo was at the receiving end of a terrible tackle which went unnoticed by the officials and he got a nasty gash on his right calf. Trying to get him to come off the field is tough. He will be there no matter what. I might as well try my luck with something else. He will be starting tomorrow night.

Forward Jeje Lalpekhlua is on a goal-drought of six games, with the 'Mizo-Sniper' last finding the net against ATK on January 25. John Gregory, however, has faith in his forward.

"I just keep supporting him because he's one of my players. He has saved us and won us matches with the click of fingers. If you remember the ATK game, he scored the winner. He has this ability to get goals and I have a huge amount of faith in him. Strikers do become inhibited if things are not going to plan but Jeje worked so hard the other night in Goa. But he has tremendous support from us."

Lastly, young midfielder Anirudh Thapa receives praise from his coach. The 20-year-old from Uttarakhand has impressed for Chennaiyin this season.

"We do not have any injury problems. We do not have any suspensions either. Anirudh Thapa came into the game other night and started really well. He's still developing and has a lot of work to be done on his game. He needs to step up and get into the first team on a regular basis. He needs to progress and can't afford to stand still. Obviously, game time will help him in that regard.

"The experienced players will help the less experienced ones. We are a million miles away from getting into the final. We won't get complacent at all. It's the same for both teams. Both teams know what they need to do to qualify."