Kolkata, February 16, 2020: Chennaiyin FC came out on top in the clash between the two-times champions of the Indian Super League as they beat ATK FC 3-1 at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Sunday. Goals from Rafael Crivellaro, Andre Schembri and Nerijus Valskis proved the difference as Roy Krishna netted for the hosts.
The scoreline was an apt indicator of CFC’s domination of the game, that Head Coach Owen Coyle highlighted in his post-match press interaction.
“We were worthy winners, outstanding from the first minute to the last,” he said.
ATK, in 2nd place, were chasing FC Goa in top spot while CFC carry aspirations of finishing in fourth place and qualifying for the play-offs. With the victory, CFC climb to 5th spot and are one point behind Mumbai City FC in 4th, whom they take on in a showdown on Friday February 21st.
“I’ve got to say we were up against a very good side. I saw ATK’s last performance (vs Odisha) and by their own coach’s admission it was their best performance. So we knew we had to bring our best game tonight.”
Asked about his team’s mindset going into a tough and tactical encounter against ATK, needing nothing less than a win, Coyle revealed, “As a Head Coach, I feel there’s more to come from us and more to improve from. We didn’t want our season to fizzle out after elevating ourselves to a certain point. We wanted to see it through to the very end.”
Indian midfielder Anirudh Thapa returned from suspension for this outing and he was joined by Maltese forward Andre Schembri, both absent from the starting lineup when CFC drew with Bengaluru FC last time out. And Coyle felt their addition surely made a difference in taking the fight to ATK.
Sharing insight into his gameplan, the former Bolton Wanderers manager said, “We were disappointed to draw the game against Bengaluru last time out. BFC are a quality team, but because Thapa was suspended and Germanpreet (Singh) was injured, I had to sacrifice some of our attacking threat with Andre (Schembri). We weren’t that effective going forward but were more solid though.”
“So getting back to what we perceive is a stronger lineup, we thought we could win. Obviously we had to be at our very best. If we were not, we would’ve lost the game. ATK are a fantastic team with a good coach but some of our football was scintillating. We scored three goals but we could’ve easily scored six or seven.”
What was key for CFC was how good they were on the ball, passing and moving so as to negate ATK’s attacking influence.
“We knew that if we took care of the ball, we would impose our system on ATK. And because we were so careful in possession, it allowed us to dominate the game. We caused them real problems.”
“We made a point of working on it all week, utilizing Jerry (Lalrinzuala) and Dinliana (Laldinliana Renthlei) as full-backs, and eventually finding space and passing it to the likes of Rafa (Rafael Crivellaro). And we all know the magic he has in his feet. It worked well tonight.”
And Coyle isn’t resting on his and his team’s laurels. He is determined to carry on and finish off the job with a victory at Mumbai.
“That brings us to our next match away to Mumbai City FC. We won’t change. People might see the table and think a draw against Mumbai could be enough if you go and win the game in hand at NorthEast United FC. But that will take away from our strength.”
“I know Mumbai have to win for their objective, for me we have to win. And that’s how we’ll approach the game.”
“We’ll enjoy tonight, but come tomorrow morning the only focus is the game in Mumbai,” he added with conviction.
CFC are back in action against MCFC on Friday February 21st in a winner-takes-all clash for the fourth spot in Mumbai.