Kerala Blasters held 10-man Chennaiyin to a 1-1 draw in the Indian Super League 2020-21 clash at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim on Sunday.
Interim coach Ishfaq Ahmed admitted that he would have liked his team to maintain a clean sheet as they worked on fine-tuning the defence after Kibu Vicuna parted ways with the club earlier this week.
“Well, there was not much time. I wanted to do some fine-tuning in defence. The first thing for us was to keep a clean sheet. W couldn’t (keep a clean sheet), the guys responded well. Motivation is needed right now because we are not going to qualify. The way we started in the first 10 minutes, it became even harder, all credit to the boys who stood up for the challenge. We did enough to win the match,” he added.
Speaking about plans to contain Chennaiyin FC midfielder Lallianzuala Chhangte, he said, “We had a plan for him. In fact, all the teams know that every time they receive the ball in midfield, they will switch. Even though he got those 10 minutes which was dangerous, we were not focused enough, I think in the next 80 minutes Lalruatthara and Prasanth Karuthadathkuni had a fabulous game. After the initial minutes, he didn’t create anything”.
Ahmed also appreciated the character shown by his team to hold their opponents to a draw. “It was about character. We need to show character even if we take the lead, we need to hold on. Many times we lost the lead in the second half. I’m happy. We did a bit of fine-tuning. We knew that their defence is a little weak one-on-one. We had plans to feed more balls to Jordan (Murray).”
Ahmed praised Gary Hooper for his displays this season. The former Celtic forward, despite getting off to a slow start since joining the club, now has five goals and four assists in the league.
“I think he is fabulous. I feel he is one of the best players in the league. We ask him to play No.10 even though he is No.9 in the game, how he manages, his first touch is fabulous. His passes to Jordan, unfortunately, we couldn’t score from the chances, otherwise, you have seen some of the wonderful goals he scored. He has improved immensely,” Ahmed said.