Things don’t appear to be all bad for Chennaiyin FC at the moment. It has been unbeaten in the last four matches since the international break and head coach Owen Coyle, who came in two weeks ago, has provided a few ‘tweaks’ to the club, which has helped yield positive results.

But the reality of playing catch-up in the Indian Super League (ISL) is not lost on Coyle. The biggest test yet comes in the form of table-topper FC Goa at the Nehru Stadium here on Thursday.

Under Coyle, Chennaiyin has managed to score early and put the pressure back on the opposition. The side hadn’t scored a first-half goal in the ISL in nine previous matches before the Scotsman took charge. Chennaiyin has scored four first-half goals in the last two games, including three in the opening half of the win against Kerala Blasters.

Lobera credits Coyle’s influence

Goa coach Sergio Lobera pointed out the difference in approach at Chennaiyin which has been brought by Coyle’s arrival. “They play with more intensity and have a good balance in both offence and defence. They have played two matches and deserved to win two matches,” he said on Tuesday.

A sign of the team forming in the image of Coyle has been the direct approach employed in the last two games. The team completed just 201 and 155 passes — lowest count this season against Jamshedpur FC and Blasters. Chennaiyin’s second goal against Blasters where it won the ball and moved upfield with seven passes in the space of 10 seconds to score what was effectively the winner could be credited to this new approach.

“We want to move quickly with the ball and be incisive in attack. Possession without penetration is nothing. We are finding ways for that penetration,” said Coyle, on his team’s playing style.

Goa, which likes to enjoy possession and dictate play, has not been at its best when it has been put under pressure. Lobera labelled the 3-0 win over Odisha on Sunday, his “worst home game” in his time in India. The two late howlers from goalkeeper Arshdeep Singh had helped Goa end up with a flattering scoreline. In an ill-disciplined and mistake-ridden season, Lobera is keen for improved showing as the second leg of the team’s season commences against Chennaiyin.


Chennaiyin FC's Masih Saighani trains with his team-mates. - ISL MEDIA


“In the last match (against Odisha FC), we had too much distance between the lines and it’s difficult to combine in attack and defence.”

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“I think it’s important to keep the possession, press the opposition team, recover the ball faster. In the last match, the opponent team had the ball in situations very easily and were very comfortable. I think intensity is the most important thing,” felt Lobera.

Corominas key for erratic Goa

The return of forward Ferran Corominas has helped Lobera mask his team’s inconsistent start to the season. Despite missing three matches, Corominas has already notched up six goals in the league. He has also made a habit of scoring regularly against Chennaiyin with four goals in the last four meetings against it.


Owen Coyle and Lallianzuala Chhangte during the pre-match press conference. Photo: Sahil Hussain.I


The Spaniard’s ability to drop deep into midfield and set up the runners, Brandon Fernandes and Seiminlen Doungel, in behind the defence will be crucial to how Goa plays. Chennaiyin’s defence will have a tough job containing him without centre-back Eli Sabia, who is suspended for the clash.

In attack, Chennaiyin will rely on the services of Rafael Crivellaro, who has created 18 chances, and the speed of winger Lallianzuala Chhangte to hurt Goa on the break.

According to Coyle, Chhangte’s efforts on the pitch epitomised his team’s football and reiterated that his team will look to attack Goa. A smash-and-grab win, which could propel it to the doorstep of the top-four race, would do for Chennaiyin.