Bengaluru, March 18: Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory said taking the lead before half-time turned things around during the Indian Super League (ISL) final against Bengaluru FC.
Chennaiyin defeated Bengaluru 3-2 to claim their second ISL title here on Saturday evening.
It were Bengaluru who enjoyed the better start as they took the lead thanks to a ninth minute strike fron Sunil Chhetri.
But Mailson Alves headed in off two corners — the second virtually moments before half-time — to hand the advantage to the visitors.
“Going into half-time having taken a lead after being 1-0 down, it felt great. It certainly gave us a huge advantage,” Gregory said after the final.
“I have been on the opposite side, being down by a goal at half-time, and it really deflates you. And obviously the team talk at half-time becomes different. I told my players to keep a clean sheet in the second half, and we won it,” he added.
Gregory underlined the importance of their third goal, pointing out that it gave his team some breathing space.
“We played with discipline and made sure that Bengaluru could not find a way back into the game,” he stated.
“And the third goal kind of helped us relax a little bit more. They obviously had to came at us in search of goals, and we could have made it even better than 3-1 at the time. I was a bit disappointed with their second goal. It made the last couple of minutes nervy and I kept looking at my watch for the last few seconds.”
Bengaluru used a 3-4-3 formation instead of their regular 4-2-3-1 formation and Gregory admitted that it did cause them problems.
“We were kind of expecting that they might use a different kind of formation against us,” the 63-year-old said.
“And they made it difficult for us. They kept getting the full backs on both sides of the pitch and the likes of Gregory Nelson and Francis Fernandes were spending a lot of time in their own half. Certainly when they scored the first goal, we were always on the back foot.”
He also lauded his players for their grit and never-say-die attitude to turn the tables and win a final at their opponents’ den.
“It is not easy when you are in a final and you are playing in somebody else’s home ground,” Gregory said.
“It gives a huge advantage to the home team. And we showed a lot of courage today, going down 0-1 and coming back to win. And that’s been the story of our season. We tend not to allow anything to bother us. We have come across so many obstacles throughout the season, but we have got huge togetherness. They are an amazing and incredible bunch of players.”