In football, the importance of a draw is often understated. Most of the time it’s considered as two points lost and not one point gained. But, in a league as tight as the Indian Super League (ISL), it can potentially make or break a season.
“Sometimes, when you can’t win a game, you shouldn’t lose it,” said Chennaiyin FC’s French defender Bernard Mendy. In his club’s context, it acquires an added importance. Last year, in the middle phase of the league, the team went on an unbeaten run of seven games. More importantly, it had four draws in that, laying the perfect foundation for a late flourish and carrying the side into the play-offs.
This year, the side has lost five of its nine matches and drawn just one. As a result, it’s languishing second from bottom with just 10 points.
“When you see the games, against NorthEast United FC, the way we conceded two goals in two minutes… I think if we had had more experience we wouldn’t have conceded that. Maybe we could have drawn and taken one point,” he said.
The ability to do this is what, Mendy feels, is the key difference from last season. “Last year we had more experience to do that. We had Mikael Silvestre and Eric Djemba Djemba. Now we have more quality. Players are young and strong.”
So is more quality tough to manage then? “Yes, sometimes.” said Mendy. “It isn’t an excuse,” he quickly added. “Because when we played Pune, we could have drawn that game but we won. So we need to get the balance right.”
That balance is what every manager dreams of and the one in Marco Materazzi, among the more pragmatic of the lot, is no different. However, his constant tinkering so far, both to get the balance right as well as help the players recover, hasn’t paid dividends.
“Sometimes it’s like this,” said Mendy. “Look at Chelsea. We just need to keep working and have belief. We have five games. So we look at Kolkata next. If we cannot win, we should look to draw. Now the target is close. We have three home games. I hope the crowd turns up and powers us.”