Fatigue all too evident in title-decider

The wear and tear of the grueling season finally took a toll on the players, especially Kerala, who had played a 120-minute-long semifinal against Delhi Dynamos only three days back.

"You should give both teams a good chance to recover. After playing continously for 14 weeks, it is only fair that both teams are give a chance to field their best XI," said Blasters' coach Steve Coppell.   -  File

“Three games in seven days,” sighed a dejected looking Steve Coppell at the post-match press-conference. “My players were magnificent and I can only compliment their spirit. To bounce back from where we were (one point from first three matches) is massive,” said the Kerala Blasters coach.

In the end, tiredness told for Kerala Blasters players as they lost in a penalty shoot-out to Atletico de Kolkata. For a final of India’s supposedly top football tournament, the quality on display was poor. And it had nothing to do with the players – amongst the 22 on field were ISL all-time top scorer Iain Hume, Portuguese striker Helder Postiga, former Real Madrid man Borja Fernandes and ex-Arsenal ‘keeper Graham Stack. The wear and tear of the grueling season finally took a toll on the players, especially Kerala, who had played a 120-minute-long semifinal against Delhi Dynamos only three days back.

"You should give both teams a good chance to recover. After playing continously for 14 weeks, it is only fair that both teams are give a chance to field their best XI," said Coppell, while agreeing that playing Aaron Hughes, who was substituted in the 35th minute, was a gamble. The player had picked up an injury in Kerala's previous game.

Coppell, though, chose to divert the discussion, insisting that he will only talk about football and his future after spending his Christmas with his mother. “I will go back home and spend time with my mother. I will talk to the owners after the new year,” said the coach.

The former Manchester United player touched upon the need for Kerala football to build on the momentum. “I know Kerala Blasters will do something for grassroots football here but I do not know if we should lead the change. I don’t know the politics here. But a six-year-old who wants to play football should have a grass court to play. That much the State should be able to offer and soon we will have world-class talents,” concluded the manager.

Title winning coach Jose Molina, meanwhile, lauded his team’s spirit. “We dominated the match and should have won the match in regulation time. But we did not take our chances,” said the Spaniard.

ATK had perhaps the most complete squad in the tournament but Molina was quick to applaud the Indian contingents in the team. “Right from the first day, they impressed me. They were willing to work hard and I think they have all improved,” said the coach.

He also stressed on the importance of a longer league in the country to aid the development of football. “I do not know if their standards will deplete once they leave ISL. But we need to have a nine-10 month league for footballers to develop. I can only hope the I-League is better and the players will get a good chance to improve,” said Molina.

  Dugout videos