“We’ve played incredible football to get here” – Owen Coyle after guiding CFC to the ISL semis

Mumbai, February 21, 2020: Chennaiyin FC Head Coach Owen Coyle completed a dramatic turnaround by leading his side to a 1-0 win over Mumbai City FC here on Friday, thus securing CFC the final semis slot with a game to spare. Lucian Goian’s late goal against his former side proved the difference as Chennaiyin knocked MCFC and Odisha FC out of the top-four race.

Having taken over the reins in December with CFC languishing at the bottom, Coyle has masterminded seven wins and two draws out of his 11 games in charge; moreover going on an unbeaten seven-game run of which CFC have won six matches.

Speaking to the media after a gruelling and intense encounter which CFC edged past 10-man MCFC, a satisfied looking Coyle said, “We obviously set out to win the game. That was the intention from the start. We’ve been worthy semi-finalists. We’ve earned our spot, with 23 points from my 11 games in charge. That just shows what we’ve had to do to get into the top four.”

Commenting specifically on the game and the challenge Jorge Costa’s side posed, he said, “First 15 minutes we controlled the game. Mumbai came into it after. Their players can cause you problems.”

“We spoke about playing the game and not the occasion, and I felt some of the players got caught up in the occasion.”

“We got better in the second half, and then when (Lallianzuala) Chhangte was racing through on goal he was maliciously brought down. A clear red card. From that point on we controlled the game again but Mumbai were always a threat, with 10 or 11 men.”

“Mumbai under Jorge Costa are a very good team. They have fantastic spirit, organization and discipline. We had to stand up and getting that shut-out. In my time we’ve been known for scoring our goals, but it’s satisfactory to get a gritty win and a clean sheet. That was pleasing.”

And asked about why his team wasn’t fluid going forward, Coyle said, “That was not my design. That was because we didn’t take good care of the ball. We had four players out with food poisoning the day before the match, but they gave everything on the field. Andre (Schembri) couldn’t train the last few days. He tried today but broke down in the warm-up and couldn’t play. All those things played a role. But we showed real character, desire and discipline to get the win, especially defensively.”

It was in fact just CFC’s and Vishal Kaith’s fourth clean sheet of the season. But the headlines were stolen by former MCFC skipper Goian who popped up at the far post in the 83rd minute and scored.

“We had to make the man advantage count, especially the space in the wide areas. As for the goal, we had prepared something on the training ground about winning that first header and converting at the far post,” Coyle said about the goal.

“I am delighted for Lucian to have popped up and scored the winner. Quite ironic, against his former club. He showed good composure to finish in that manner on the volley,” he added.

The win also meant CFC have won four consecutive away games for the first time ever. “Tonight was a big pressure game as Mumbai are a tough team to beat especially at home. They’ve been finding ways to win. Moreover, we hadn’t won a game away since November 2018 before my time. And now we’ve four on the bounce on the road for the first time ever. Hyderabad, Kerala, ATK and now Mumbai are tough away venues for different reasons,” Coyle said.

Looking ahead to the final league game against NorthEast United on Tuesday, Coyle confirmed a few names would be rested.

“So now going into the NorthEast game we can afford to rest a few players, having qualified with a game to spare. It’s nice to do that.”

Chennaiyin will now play either ATK or FC Goa depending on the outcome of the remaining league matches, the first leg in Chennai on Saturday February 29 with the return leg on Sunday March 8.

“It is a very satisfying feeling for myself and my Assistant Coach Sandy (Stewart). Nobody really gave us a chance to get into the play-offs. It shows the incredible football we’ve played to get here. And now that we’re here, it’s important to see it through.”

“We’ve shown that we’re here on merit. It doesn’t matter who we play in the semis, ATK or FC Goa. It’ll be exciting but we will be playing to win for sure. We’ve shown we’re two times champions for a reason. Chennaiyin know how to win when it comes to these games,” Coyle concluded