HERO SUPER CUP QUALIFIERS, DAY 2: DELHI - GOKULAM, CHENNAIYIN - AIZAWL VIE FOR ROUND OF 16 SPOTS

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The second day (March 16) of the Hero Super Cup 2019 qualifiers offers two exciting ties. The day's itinerary starts off with Delhi Dynamos FC (8th in Hero ISL 2018-19) squaring off against Gokulam Kerala FC (9th in Hero I-League 2018-19). Later in the day, it's Chennaiyin FC's (10th in Hero ISL 2018-19) turn to take the field against Aizawl FC (7th in Hero I-League 2018-19). The two fixtures will eventually decide the final two teams who will be moving onto the Round of 16 of the tournament, which begins from March 29. Both the matches will take place at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.

 

Ahead of the fixture, players and coaches of Delhi and Chennaiyin addressed the media in their respective pre-match press conferences. Here's a run through of both the fixtures and what each camp had to say.

 

Qualifier 3: Delhi Dynamos FC vs Gokulam Kerala FC

 

Delhi Dynamos took 11 whole matches in the Hero ISL to register their first victory of the season, but since then have seemed like a team reborn. The Lions had an excellent run towards the end of their campaign and went unbeaten in six (4 wins, 2 draws) of their final seven matches of the season. Primarily a young side, Delhi took time to warm up to head coach Josep Gombau's classical Spanish possession-based style. However, once they did, the Lions did look like a force to be reckoned with. When Delhi is on the field, expect to bear witness to some scintillating wing play with Lallianzuala Chhangte and Nandhakumar Sekar patrolling the wide areas. The two, along with defender Gianni Zuiverloon have been the standout players for the team this season and will look to further their reputation in the Hero Super Cup.

 

From the Delhi camp, assistant coach Mridul Banerjee and defender Pradeep Mohanraj were available to take questions from the media. Asked about the team's preparations and aspirations for the Hero Super Cup, Banerjee said, "We came here with a target to reach the final. We are focusing on the first match. If you win, you stay. If you lose, you have to go back. This is the dynamic of the tournament."

 

Assessing Delhi's season so far, he stated, "If you consider that we have finished in the 8th position, then I will tell you that it is not satisfying. But I’m telling you that except two or three matches we played pretty well. We created so many goal scoring chances. The problem was we could not convert the chances into goals."

 

Delhi youngsters Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Vinit Rai and Lallianzuala Chhangte were part of the U-23 India squad which recently put up a good showing against Qatar. Sharing his thoughts on the trio's possible impact on the tournament, Banerjee stated, "Daniel scored four goals in the Hero ISL and got into the Indian squad because of his performances. Chhangte has already proved his talent and so has Vinit. Now, it's up to them to justify their talent here."

 

Pradeep, meanwhile, shed some light on the preparedness of the team going into the Hero Super Cup. "Our preparation has been going on well for the knock-out match. The team has been practising well. We have come with full preparation to win the Cup. This Hero Super Cup is very important for us because we finished the league in 8th position in the Hero ISL. So, we are here to win the Cup," he said.

 

With just three wins in their Hero I-League 2018-19 campaign, Gokulam has the unsavoury record of the joint-fewest number of victories this season alongside bottom-placed Shillong Lajong. However, on their day, the Kerala-based side has proven to be a hard team to dispatch off, as reflected by their eight draws this campaign. Up front, the team relies heavily on Trinidad and Tobago-based forward Marcus Joseph to deliver the goals. The 27-year-old has accounted for 7 of Gokulam's total tally of 25 goals this season.

 

Qualifier 4: Chennaiyin FC vs Aizawl FC

 

The Hero ISL 2017-18 champions had a steep fall from grace this term, as John Gregory's side saw themselves engulfed in a nightmarish title defence. The two-time champions plummeted to the bottom of the table fast and stayed rooted there for the majority of the season, eventually finishing dead last. However, a somewhat positive result in the AFC Cup qualifiers, which saw them overcome Sri Lankan side Colombo FC to seal their place in the continental event's main stage, will have surely restored some of the lost-confidence for Jeje Lalpekhlua and Co.

 

At the pre-match briefing, Chennaiyin head coach John Gregory illustrated the importance of doing well in the Hero Super Cup and said, "It’s a big motivation after having a disappointing Hero ISL season. We want to try and recover some pride. We come here with the intention of doing well."

 

Chennaiyin come into the fixture on the back of booking their place in the AFC Cup after overcoming Sri Lanka's Colombo FC in the qualifiers. Speaking about the achievement and how it may help the team in the Hero Super Cup, the Englishman opined, "The match against Colombo FC was basically a knock-out game. The first leg was a draw, so the second leg suddenly became a knock-out game. Whoever won the match, would win the tie. So, we’ve already experienced a knock-out game this season. We did particularly well. We kept a clean sheet, Jeje scored the winner. We qualified for the group stage. So, this kind of competition is exactly the same. It’s a knock-out competition."

 

Tondonba Singh, who accompanied Gregory to the presser, also highlighted the importance of a positive run in the competition. "We have to look forward. The Hero ISL is over. We have to focus on the AFC Cup and Hero Super Cup now," he said

 

Aizawl, the surprise Hero I-League champions from 2016-17, are incidentally the same team which knocked Chennaiyin out of the Hero Super Cup last season in the pre quarter-final stage. The match ended in a 2-2 draw but Aizawl nicked it through penalties. The pre-existing history between the two teams in the competition will add some extra spice to Saturday’s fixture.

Posted on : Friday March 15, 2019