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We are not in the ISL final by accident: Coyle

Fatorda, March 13 (IANS) Chennaiyin FC head coach Owen Coyle on Friday said they are not in the Indian Super League (ISL) final by accident, after masterminding a remarkable turnaround that saw the two-time champions make the playoffs despite remaining bottom of the table till December.

Irish coach Coyle replaced John Gregory as the head coach of Chennaiyin and in the 14 matches in charge, the team lost just three games to gatecrash the playoffs by finishing fourth — their turnaround started from January as they went on a nine-match unbeaten run.

The 2015 and 2017-2018 ISL champions secured their place in the final after edging out FC Goa by a 6-5 aggregate scoreline. The Gaurs won their second leg here 4-2, but it wasn’t quite enough to overturn a 4-1 defeat they suffered in the first leg back in Chennai last week.

“I think we have worked so very hard to reach the final and we are not here by accident. We have been a team who had to win every week because of the form of the others – Odisha were winning, Mumbai were winning and obviously the top three teams (ATK, Goa and Bengaluru) have been set for a long time,” Coyle said on the eve of the final.

“The players get the credit for that mentality to keep winning in that kind of situation. I think we showed an incredible mentality and it has been so enjoyable to watch and we don’t want to come this far just to stop there. We obviously want to see that through against a very dangerous opponent and a wonderful coach. It’s been an exciting season and we want to make sure that we finish on a high,” said Coyle who led Burnley to the Premier League for the first time since 1976, in 2009.

Coyle added he wouldn’t changed their style of play ahead of the final.

“I have nothing but utmost respect for ATK, for the quality of players they have. We will stick to our style because we believe that we can win games with it. We are still under pressure as we go into the final and we want to be because that’s when we are at our best. When this team is focused and concentrated, that’s when our quality kicks in,” said Coyle.

His ATK counterpart Antonio Lopez Habas, who guided ATK to the ISL title in 2014, the inaugural season, added that the team will look to enjoy the final and to win it.

“In football all matches are different. One final is absolutely different from a league match. We have to enjoy the final and try to win it. We have come here with the idea to win the trophy but we have to respect the opponent. This is a special match but for a professional, it is one more match. We have 90 minutes or some more to compete for a win. There is only one final. Maybe some player doesn’t have the opportunity to play another final in his career. We need one heart and the whole mind for the final,” stated the Spaniard.

ATK have been one of the most consistent sides this season.

In the league stages, ATK defeated Chennaiyin in Chennai before Coyle’s side returned the favour in Kolkata.

ATK captain and Fijian striker Roy Krishna said he is aware that nothing is won yet. Krishna (15) needs one more goal to become the top goal-scorer. But Nerijus Valskis (14) is also in the race for the Golden Boot.

“ATK is a family to me and I just want to give my best to the team in any possible way. It’s good to be in the final but we can’t get carried away. We have to focus on the game and enjoy our role. I think the boys are going to do a good job,” he said.

Asked about his personal targets after a stellar season in the ISL where many rate him as the best player this season, Krishna said: “I have to focus on the final first. Personally, I have targets and one of them is to win the trophy. I haven’t achieved anything. So my main focus now is to do the best for the team and win the league and after that, I don’t know what is next,” he said.

–IANS

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