Kerala Blasters FC defender Pritam Kotal led the all-Indian defensive line-up of the Blasters as they secured a narrow 2-1 victory over East Bengal FC in a highly intense match on Saturday.

Throughout the match, Kotal has been brilliant with interceptions, positioning, composure, attitude, and, most importantly, his communication with his players. The Bengali defender single-handedly prevented many of East Bengal FC’s chances, giving his side their first victory over the Kolkata-based team at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, in Kolkata.

The former Mohun Bagan Super Giant captain made the switch to the Blasters during the summer transfer window, and since leaving his home state, the defender returned to his home turf for the first time. Playing on one's home ground is always a challenging experience, especially when you are playing as an opponent. After the victory, Kotal shared his thoughts on the win with in an exclusive interview.

“It feels great to secure a win in an away game, especially on my home ground. It feels good to be back here in Kolkata and earn three points against a very good team, East Bengal FC. So, we are happy, and now there is a long break, and we need to prepare for our next match,” Kotal stated after the game.

The 30-year-old discusses his role as a senior player in the squad, guiding the younger players and instilling the confidence that enables them to excel in their abilities.

“It’s a big role. We talked a lot with each other, not only in the match but also in the training seasons,” he said.

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Hormipam Ruivah partnered with Kotal in the centre-back position in the absence of Milos Drincic. Kotal further emphasizes the importance of instilling confidence in young players like Ruivah and goalkeeper Sachin Suresh, who has been exceptional since making his league debut with the Blasters this season.

“Hormipam (Ruivah) is a very good player; we just need to give him confidence. Sachin (Suresh), who is playing in the ISL for the very first time in his career, also needs confidence. As a leader, I just only give them confidence. They are very talented players; that’s why they are playing here,” he added.

Suresh emerged as the standout performer against the Red and Gold Brigade, denying the opposition captain twice from the penalty spot, as the referee asked for the initial penalty to be retaken. Notably, the shot-stopper's save against Diego Mauricio from the spot played a crucial role in Kerala Blasters' comeback against the Juggernauts in the previous Matchweek.

Kotal was full of praise for the young goalkeeper, but he also expects further improvement from him in the upcoming matches.

“Sachin (Suresh) can save four out of four penalties, in my opinion. I have confidence in him. He is playing well but needs to improve more, and he will be getting better with confidence,” Kotal concluded.