Indian Super League (ISL) champions Chennaiyin FC's head coach John Gregory felt that fatigue took its toll afer his side lost to Aizawl FC on penalties in the opening match of the Super Cup 2018 at the Kalinga Stadium on Saturday.
Speaking after the loss, Gregory said, "We’ve had a very long season and have had to work extremely hard in every single match. We’ve had 170 training days since October 1st where everyone had to mentally and physically be prepared for the training, travelling and to win matches. It culminated in us being champions, two weeks ago."
The English coach rested striker Jeje Lakpekhlua and made changes to the lineup that defeated Bengaluru FC in the ISL final on March 17.
"We had five of the boys going for the national team who worked really hard. They looked particularly tired on the field and one of them (Jeje Lalpekhlua) I left out because he’s had extremely tough 12 months. He has put so much energy and mental concentration.
"I have got nothing but compliments for my team as to how they have performed this season. Tonight, I kind of expected the performance from us; it was difficult to find the motivation after what we achieved in the last couple of weeks. But my boys gave their best. We came back twice. We had a few chances (which) we maybe should have done better with," said Gregory.
The head coach of the Marina Machans also felt that the game should have directly gone to penalties after the end of ninety minutes.
"The second half was literally one-way traffic and we couldn’t get the winning goal, then we went to extra time. We should have gone straight to penalties! Because the extra time wasn’t particularly enjoyable; everyone had fallen out, pulled muscles. We’d made all our substitutions so we couldn’t make any more changes. In the end, we lost in the shootout, so we aren’t really disappointed.
"We respect the tournament and the two leagues playing together. But, at the end of a tiring season, it’s sometimes difficult to motivate yourself again. The teams who hadn’t been in the playoffs or the finale, have obviously had more time (off) and have been waiting for their matches. Let’s wait for their matches, I’m sure you’ll get better ones than the one tonight (laughs)," he signed off.
Aizawl FC head coach Santosh Kashyap praised the effort from his players and felt that his side handled pressure well.
"I’m proud of the team as they have given extraordinary efforts. I had told them to beat the best team, you have to put extra effort which we did. We move on from here.
"I feel that Dodoz had four to five sitters, which he could have scored and finished the match. Chennaiyin played well but we handled the pressure even after conceding the goals. It was an excellent tie-breaker," he concluded.