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ISL   /   ATK   /   Kerala Blasters FC   /  

Coppell: Blasters didn't have the squad depth to beat ATK; Molina: Great team work from the first day

EVEN 120 MINUTES WERE NOT ENOUGH to get a winner in the ISL Final of 2016, hence penalty shootout decided the champions. Two teams playing their second finals in 3 years showed how much they both wanted the trophy.

An ecstatic Molina, speaking to the press after the game said,

“I think we are a team. That is most important. We attack as a team, defend as a team, fight together. I like the players. But what I love is the team. We have great players. But sometimes when you have great players, you don’t have a great team. I like eleven players on the pitch who play well, and there are other players who try to get in the team. And I am proud about that. They all play as a team,”

The losing team Coach Coppell on a bitter defeat on penalties said,

"We didn’t lose, we drew the game. We lost the league on penalties, it’s cool and I would like to congratulate Kolkata and the game tonight was even and anybody could have won, and two very tired teams. And from our point of view we played three games in seven days and we had to travel to Delhi when we shouldn’t have had to travel to Delhi and I don’t want to sound like sour grapes because Kolkata have won it,”

The Englishman Coppell continued,

“But we should have not had to travel to Delhi and after the game in Delhi we could not get any flights to fly out of Delhi and we had to stay in Delhi for a day and the next day we had to fly back to Kochi and we had to split the team in five different groups and the players started flying back at 5 o’clock in the morning and the last players got to the hotel at 8 o’clock at night.  I thought my players were fantastic and I can only compliment them on giving so much of themselves tonight and throughout the league and the Kerala fans made the occasion and on behalf of the players and the support staff I would like to say thank you to the fans and sorry that we could not bring the trophy but it was a great experience.”

Molina on how he thought his players did in the season said,

“I think we did great work from the first day. I think we played great tonight. We lost only two matches. In some matches, we could have played better. Finally, we reached the final and played great. We were playing well. Final touches were not good. But finally, we won on penalties.”

Kerala had to get the marquee Hughes replaced early in the first half. Coppell laid blame on the taxing fixtures for the injuries. Speaking on the fixture Coppell said,

“First and foremost, we knew we were taking a calculated risk with Aaron Hughes and he was having trouble from Delhi and it was not an ideal situation. I forced him to start and if it was an ordinary game he would have not played. From the first minute, he was struggling a bit and I made the decision to make a change and I think there weren’t many chances created and I think that is because both teams have played so many games in the last seven- eight days and the heat here was very draining, so going forward there should be a bigger gap between the final and the semi-final, and put the final on the pedestal it deserves. The teams have played 14 weeks to get here, so give them a chance to field their strongest team rather than patch-work.”

The winning penalty came from Jewel Raja for ATK. Hume missed from the spot. Molina shared the talk before the shooters were decided saying, 

“Jewel Raja came to me before the penalty shootout and said I want to shoot Number Five. Hume came and told me I want to shoot Number One. So, I said ok, shoot. It is important for me to understand what the players feel in that situation, if they are under any pressure or not. If one player comes to you and says I want to shoot, I say ok. If ten players say I want to shoot, then you have to choose. All players who took penalties today wanted to shoot,” 

The ATK Coach went on to say,

"I was very happy after the last penalty. I started celebrating with the coaching staff and after that I turned to my family, who came from Spain to watch the final. They will go back tomorrow.”

Coppell put forward one of the reason that his team were not matching ATK's on paper saying,

"I have said from day one that the squad wasn’t balanced but I think we did great to adapt to the situation and Josu played as left-back and adapted and we missed him tonight and I think Ishfaq did a tremendous job. The next time the squad will be more balanced and Kolkata made nine changes and I don’t think any other team in the league would have made so many changes and they delivered in a hostile atmosphere in Mumbai, so again you will probably argue that they have a deeper squad,”

Talking about the contribution and performance of Indian players, Coach Molina said,

“I think all Indian players are doing a great job from the beginning. I was absolutely impressed with them from the beginning. They want to work, they want to learn, want to improve from the beginning. That is what impressed me. The quality is there, you expect that from professional players,”

Asked about his plans to return to the Blasters's team, Coppell said he would need things to be streamlined to be able to arrive at a decision and replied,

“Well I think when you are feeling so bad after the result it is the wrong time to talk about it and I want to go home and see my mom as she is a lady of a certain age and then I will speak with the owners and see what their plans are and there is a lot to be done at this club to reward the supporters with the right set-up, so you know we have discussed it, the future, not just my future but the future of the club going forward and I am sure that the ownership will make sure that the club is better prepared going forward. It does not guarantee that they will be successful but lessons learnt from this season will be carried forward.”

Molina was all praises for the keeper Debjit who stopped a penalty in the shootout,

“He wanted to improve. He worked every day and improved. I put him in the line-up because he won his place in the team. He worked hard from the beginning”

The ATK Coach Molina was of the view that a longer league will be helpful for Indian football.

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