Fatorda (Goa), March 15 (IANS) Chennaiyin FC head coach Owen Coyle said his team played better football, but missed a flurry of goal-scoring opportunities as they lost 1-3 to ATK in the Indian Super League (ISL) final here on Saturday night.
Spanish midfielder Javi Hernandez scored a brace as ATK defeated Chennaiyin FC 3-1 to grab their third Indian Super League (ISL) title, the most by any team so far, in a riveting closed-door summit clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Chennaiyin missed a few gilt-edged chances to score with Nerijus Valkis even hitting the crossbar in the fourth minute. Valkis went on to score a goal in the 69th minute to make it 2-1 but Hernandez dashed any Chennaiyin hopes of a comeback by netting the winner deep into stoppage time.
“The only thing that went wrong today was the scoreline. If you don’t take your chances, they will punish you,” Coyle said at the post match media conference.
ATK goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya was in fine form on Saturday night as he pulled off some stunning saves to keep Chennaiyin at bay.
“The man of the match today for me was the goalkeeper (Arindam Bhattacharya). He made some outstanding saves. I think we have to give credit to ATK for winning but don’t tell me that we weren’t the better team tonight. We were the team who played the better football but we missed chance after chance,” he said.
“As a club, we showed our class. It wasn’t our night tonight and you have to congratulate the winners because that’s the nature of the sport. I told the players to make sure the next time you are in this situation, you are the ones to lift the trophy,” said the Irish coach.
The former Burnley manager justified starting Germanpreet Singh over Edwin Vanspaul.
“He (Vanspaul) has had one or two knocks. That is one of the decisions you have to take. We have terrific Indian midfielders and the decision had no bearing on the game.
“I think because the game was set for ATK, we provided a lot of space, but we still had some wonderful opportunities and we missed two goals in the first five minutes and I think ATK will feel very relieved.
“For the nature of the game, with a stop-start, I thought there could have been a few more minutes. I have no problems with the referee. They have a job to do,” Coyle said.
Coyle further said he felt sorry for his players after the anti-climatic end to their dream run.
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.
“Tonight I’m disappointed for my players, especially the youngsters. They have put so much into this and have been a joy to watch. I really feel for them tonight. That’s what my focus is on. I’m disappointed for them and not for me. They have put in the effort and energy to win the game,” he concluded.