Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic expressed satisfaction with his team's performance as they edged past Mohun Bagan Super Giant with a scoreline of 1-0 in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Wednesday.

An early goal from Dimitrios Diamantakos was enough for the Blasters to take home all three points, handing the Mariners their third consecutive loss of the season. The Greek forward didn’t take much time to score his seventh goal of the season. In the ninth minute of the match, Diamantakos skillfully dribbled past three Mohun Bagan SG defenders and drilled the ball into the back of the net, sending Kerala Blasters FC to the top of the table with 26 points from 12 matches.

The head coach is glad to have finished the year in style, winning three out of their four fixtures this month and conceding a defeat only against FC Goa.

“Of course, today, now after this game at the end of this year, it's a nice feeling, great feeling to end the year on a positive note, sitting first on top of the table, even if it could be only for a couple of days,” stated Vukomanovic in the post-match press conference.

He added, “It's a nice feeling for us because we know that we are Kerala Blasters FC. You know, we know that we are coming from, way behind since I arrived at the club.”

Reflecting back on their recent victories, the Serbian is glad he could adjust his team to the playing styles of Mumbai City FC and Mohun Bagan SG and pull off victories against both the heavyweights.

He shared, “As a coach you always try to find the way how you can win the game because sometimes even, you know, let's say in the previous two games, we knew we were facing a very strong side of Mohun Bagan SG and Mumbai City FC. We knew that we would have to allow our opponents to have the ball possession. We knew that we would have to organize our defence line and defensive block with quality and trying to get something maybe in transition.” 

Elucidating his responsibility as a coach, he continued, “And then as a coach, you always want to find that possibility of how to win the game.”

The Blasters recorded their first-ever win against Mohun Bagan SG in the ISL. Expressing happiness on accomplishing the achievement, and acknowledging the strength of the Kolkata giants, he said, “We knew that Mohun Bagan SG would be dominant. They have a great team. So again, we are happy because I think it's been a long time since Kerala Blasters FC won here. So actually, also the first time since I arrived in India that we've been against Mohun Bagan SG. So again, we are so happy about that.”

Former Mohun Bagan SG captain Pritam Kotal was in top form playing against his old colleagues. Vukomanovic was impressed with his performance. He was full of praise for his backline and feels that Kotal’s experience has helped the younger players grow.

The 46-year-old said, “If we speak about defensive line in the last three games if we speak about Pritam Kotal, you know him from here. You know he was the captain here for a long time. (Milos) Drincic, (Marko) Leskovic and now especially, we have also a couple of good players, like Prabir Das, and Sandeep (Singh). So the thing, the way we work and the way we live together, you know, with the friendship we created. Of course, the role of Pritam Kotal as an experienced player, helps us a lot, you know. It helps young players to grow up. He's a great professional. He's giving a great example to all of them.”