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John Gregory backs Andre Schembri and Nerijus Valskis to be amongst goals

20:27 GMT+3 25/11/2019
John Gregory Chennaiyin FC ISL 6
The English coach was relieved to see his side pick their first three points this season...

Chennaiyin FC finally managed to end their run of poor form as they edged past Hyderabad FC 2-1 in a thrilling game at the Marina Arena, Chennai on Monday evening.

Coach John Gregory described his emotions after Andre Schembri scored the first goal of the game in the injury time of the second half. This was, incidentally, the first goal scored by the Chennai-based outfit in the Indian Super League (ISL) season six.

“When we scored the first goal, it was like, did that really go in! Lallianzuala Chhangte got in some very good positions in the first half but was not able to pick out anybody. We hit the post twice. It looked like we would carry on like that. 

“Andre and Nerijus Valskis in particular, they score goals regularly on the training ground. They are really good finishers. I was shocked that they did not score in the four matches. But they persevered. Andre created that goal himself. Valskis really did well to set himself up for the goal. That was the reason we bought them both. I hope that this is the start of more goals to come,” said the English coach.

However, the home side leaked in a goal soon after the opener from a set-piece and it looked like they would once fail to grab three points this season.

“We’re winning 1-0 and they equalized. How the hell did we allow them to score when we had taken the lead barely a minute before? But that’s what happens in football. It happens all the time. This is why people go and watch football games. Old Trafford, Camp Nou, Anfield, Bernabeu - people go to stadiums like this...expecting miracles. This is why we still do what we do - for moments like this. People still came here even when we had not scored a goal and they got a great game,” said Gregory.

Chennaiyin FC are placed ninth on the table with four points from five matches. Gregory mentioned that his team are looking to make it to the top four this season.

“We are aiming for the play-offs, without any question. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be aiming for that. Good result for us last night with Odisha getting a draw against ATK. It keeps everybody within range. If we can get a few wins on the trot, suddenly the position changes. Today’s result is very important but Thursday’s result (against Odisha) will be more important,” he opined.

The former Aston Villa coach reasoned that it is important how the clubs spend their resources and it is not often that a team has to have a massive budget.

“Last season, many clubs spent huge amounts of money - may be more than Bengaluru FC and Goa and didn’t even make the playoffs. In season four, we had a small budget and we won the trophy. It’s not about having the money but how you spend it.”

Gregory went on to heap praise on the players for their efforts and also to co-owner Vita Dani for backing the entire Chennai staff.

“I’m pleased for the players. I am close to most of them. Our win wasn’t perfect. It was frustrating in the attack. We deserved the victory without any question but I wish it was a bit more comfortable. I feel pleased for Vita because she’s the big boss and she, without any question, is the best boss in the ISL. She has been tremendously supportive of me and the players during this tough period. She rarely misses a match and that doesn’t happen a lot,” he exclaimed.

Gregory looked forward to the upcoming fixture against Odisha FC, who he rated highly given their expansive style of play.

“(Dhanpal) Ganesh has a knee injury. Jeje is getting closer to full fitness. They (Hyderabad) made it a little bit tough for us. Chhangte got a lot of space down the left-wing. We should’ve used more of those chances.

“Odisha are a good football team and they should’ve won against ATK. They’ve always been a good football team. Sometimes against the better teams, the players tend to have more confidence. The way we did it, it was the best way we did it,” he signed off with a smile