Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic lamented the lack of a fully fit squad following his team's defeat to Odisha FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Friday.

Despite a chance to claim the top spot on the table, Kerala Blasters FC faced their third defeat of the season. Dimitrios Diamantakos gave them the lead, but Odisha FC quickly turned the tide in the second half with Roy Krishna scoring a brace within four minutes.

Up until that pivotal moment, Kerala Blasters FC effectively maintained their lead and resisted the home team's scoring efforts. However, they succumbed to the pressure in the second half, struggling to regain control despite creating promising chances.

While Vukomanovic praised his team's first-half performance and their ability to lead at halftime, he emphasised the challenge of not being able to field his best team due to some players still not reaching full fitness. Additionally, the injuries to Adrian Luna and Kwame Peprah, both ruled out for the rest of the season, further compounded the team's challenges.

“I’m really pleased with the first half, how we performed, how we closed down all the passing lines and we managed to press the home team knowing that they are one of the biggest candidates to win trophies this season. But when you face these kinds of teams like Odisha FC, who are playing the whole season now with consistency, with a full squad, it's difficult,” he said in the post-match press conference.

“We are the team that never had the opportunity to play with the full squad (of fully fit players) since the start of the season. In 13 games, we never had all the players together. And it’s not a complaint but a present situation that you have to deal with throughout the season and for us, it is a big part of improvisation. Every game.. it’s like this big puzzle that you throw it away and then you have to start completing it (again). Every game for us, it's kind of a different story. Different picture. We cannot count that we can go and play with a full squad, but that’s the way it is. Many blow offs with the injured players and the youngsters who have to step up. And in these kinds of games against Odisha FC, it becomes hard, especially (what happened) in the second half,” he added.

In the second half, new signings Fedor Cernych and Justine Emmanuel made their presence felt, injecting added sharpness into the Blasters' attack. Vukomanovic recognised the impact of these players coming in later during the game, citing their late introduction due to not being fit to start.

“We are not happy that we lost the game but these small details, small mistakes, make difference in this kind of level against teams such as Odisha FC. Even against some other teams, who don’t have that kind of quality like Odisha FC, you can go unpunished and hope to get a point. But if you face this kind of team like Odisha FC is, with all due respect, then you suffer (if you make mistakes). Even in the second half we tried to push back again with some new players who are still not ready to play from the start. And you need to respect many other aspects (such) as how not to destroy them at the very beginning. These kind of things we did early (in the game), the combinations with youngsters and the other players, so we have to continue, that’s the way,” he expressed.