Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory says he was disappointed over bullish comments made by Bengaluru FC shot-stopper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu after the Indian Super League (ISL) 2017/18 final Saturday, March 17.
The former Aston Villa boss' comments came after Gurpreet said that Bengaluru deserved to be the champions of the fourth season of the league despite their 3-2 defeat in the final at Sree Kanteerava Stadium. The 26-year-old India international pointed out that the debutants had finished the league stages on top of the table.
"I think it was an unexpected result for us. I want to thank the fans and I want to congratulate Chennaiyin FC for winning the final. But I believe we won the league phase and so we are the champions," Gurpreet had said right after Saturday's final in Bengaluru.
Notably, Albert Roca's men qualified for the knockout stages after dominating the rest of the pack in the league stage. They became the first ISL team to collect 40 points as they finished eight points clear of second-placed Chennaiyin.
Gregory disappointed over Gurpreet's comments
"I was honestly disappointed to hear these [Gurpreet's] words. We won the cup is what I know," Gregory said during the post-match press conference Saturday.
"A large number of countries use this format. Play-offs were introduced in the UK about 20 years ago. You could finish sixth in your division and still win promotion to the Premiership. You could finish 20 points behind the champion."
"In my years, we did it, we finished sixth well behind Portsmouth and then won promotion," he added.
Bengaluru FC had started the much-anticipated final at Sree Kanteerava Stadium as the favorites. Skipper and local favorite Sunil Chhetri opened the scoring as early as in the sixth minute, much to the delight of the home fans.
However, Chennaiyin, who were clinical from the set-pieces throughout their campaign, went 2-1 up at the half-time break after central defender Mailson Alves converted two corner kicks into goals.
Despite Bengaluru showing intent after the break, Chennaiyin midfield controlled the game and they put more pressure on the hosts and silenced the home fans through Raphael Augusto's goal in the 67th minute.
Miku pulled one back in the stoppage time for Bengaluru but it wasn't enough for the two-time I-League champions to prevent Chennaiyin from winning their second ISL title.
Roca criticises ISL format
Meanwhile, Roca also was critical of ISL's format and revealed that even some Chennaiyin players had empathized with Bengaluru's situation after the defeat in the final.
"Everybody knows we finished first, eight points above Chennaiyin. We are human beings, the players did an incredible job. I am sad for them and the fans. But that's football," Roca said Saturday.
He added: I think even some of their (Chennaiyin) players came to us and said we should not have been in this situation. The tournament is like it is and we cannot change that."