Andre Schembri could not hide his delight after the Malta striker played a key role in helping Chennaiyin FC to clinch their first victory in the Indian Super League when they edged past Hyderavbad 2-1.
Schembri was introduced seven minutes from time and the former Apollon Limassol striker sparked his team to life when fired in the opening goal on 90 minutes and then, after Hyderabad had managed to draw level, he set up Nerijus Valskis to fire home the winner with virtually the last kick of the match to cap off a thrilling game.
“I feel very happy that the team has won the game today,” Schembri told Indian media on Monday.
“We feel also very happy that the team has also scored today cause in the last three or four weeks we faced a lot of criticism that our strikers cannot score. Today, we showed that we are capable of scoring goals. It’s not about the strikers but there are many aspects of the game that we need to improve.
“I think whenever you win you gain a lot of confidence but there is still a lot of work to be done.
Unfortunately we are conceding a lot of silly goals and certainly that is one area that we must look to improve on.
“Now it’s important that we forget about this game and concentrate on our next match.”
The Malta striker also thanked the Chennaiyin fans who were again behind the team despite the team’s poor run of form.
“I’m grateful to our fans who came to support us,” he said.
“As I always say they are very important for us as they are the 12th player on the pitch. Although the team was not achieving good results they still came to support us today and we are very grateful to them for standing behind us.”
Chennaiyin FC manager John Gregory reserved special praise to Schembri for his key contribution at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Monday.
“We had a lot of chances, lot of possession and lot of half chances in the box,” Gregory told a news conference.
“(Lallianzuala) Chhangte got in some very good positions in the first half in particular but was never able to pick out a striker in the box. We hit the post. It just looked like it was going to carry on like it has been, being so close yet so far.”
“Andre (Schembri) and Nerijus (Valskis), those two in particular, you see them on the training ground, they score goals on regular occasions. They’re such good finishers.
“I’ve been somewhat shocked that in the four games, they haven’t managed to get a goal between them. But they’ve persevered at it. Andre took his goal very well, and Nerijus really showed quality.
"And that was the reason why I bought both him and Andre because I know they can score goals. I just hope for the pair of them and the team, this is the start of more goals to come, and more victories,” he added.
The former Aston Villa manager then spoke of how he was especially pleased that the efforts of his players were finally rewarded.
“I’m pleased for the players. They put in a lot of hard work. I get very frustrated sometimes when we play some good football and get into the last third of the pitch, and then suddenly someone crosses the ball behind the goal,” he said.
“I always want it to be perfect. Today we deserved the victory without any question, but I wish it had been a little bit more comfortable.”
Finally, the 65-year-old looked ahead to the coming matches and maintained that Chennaiyin’s target this season is to reach the playoffs.
“We are aiming for the playoffs. That’s where we want to be. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t get into the playoffs. We looked at Season 2 when we actually lost six matches out of 14, but we won seven. I think we finished third. That’s possible for us.
“It was a good result for us on Sunday, with Odisha only getting a draw with ATK. It keeps everybody within range. The Hyderabad result is very important, but Thursday’s result will be more important,” he said.
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