Happy to be in the final after six years, now we must build on it: Kerala Blasters FC’s Ivan Vukomanovic

Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic was pleased with his team’s season despite losing out on penalties to Hyderabad FC in the final of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the PJN stadium on Monday.

The Blasters were two minutes plus stoppage time away from winning the Hero ISL trophy for the first time in their history but Hyderabad FC equalised through Sahil Tavora to force extra-time and later penalties and emerged victorious in the end.

Match Report: Laxmikanth Kattimani the hero as Hyderabad FC beat Kerala Blasters FC on penalties to win first Hero ISL title

The Serbian head coach though was keen to look at the positives for his team this season and hopes to build on this in the future.

Vukomanovic addressed the media after the final.

Here are the excerpts from his post-match press conference:

It must be hard to accept defeat today but what do you think about your team's performance?

We have to see this as a sport and for me it's a special feeling when you are playing in a final. It's a big part of your career, it's a big part of your life. So, when those things come to you, you should embrace it with a smile and joy.

Of course, it's not easy when you lose on penalties. We can call it bad luck but at the end of the day we are pleased not just for today's performance but also pleased with the whole season. You know better than me that in the previous seasons, there were many disappointments. In the beginning of the season, we started with difficulties with a loss against ATK Mohun Bagan and then we fought back. We were working hard and I was proud that we played so many good games. These boys were starting to understand how we wanted to achieve things, and wanted to play.

We deserved to be in the final where nobody expected us to be. I think this is a great base to build on and to reinforce, become stronger and fight back next year.

You made changes and removed the likes of Alvaro Vazquez and Jorge Diaz. That meant centre-back Marko Leskovic had to take a penalty. Was this pre-planned?

In the last few days we were practising penalties and Leskovic was the guy who was scoring all the penalties. He has a great passing range, he can shoot well so the decision was ours to give him the penalty. Adrian Luna was the fifth one.

There are moments when you are missing players who you want to take penalties and as a coach you want to ask if there are any players who want to take the penalty. We had many raised hands and many brave boys and I am proud of them. In the end, penalties are penalties and we don't know what will happen. In the end we are at the bad end, But I think there are many positives that these boys can build on as we achieved something that nobody expected. We are really pleased about that.

In the first half we saw Luna drop deep, allowing Sandeep Singh to overlap on the flank. But we didn't see that much in the second half. What was the reason?

This is one of the aspects that we are using in our game but it's not that we are using it all the time. We want to use all the aspects.

In the last 15-20 days, it has become really difficult to play here in Goa. It became humid and in the second half and later in extra time it was obvious that the boys were suffering. They were losing liquids. Jorge (Diaz) and Alvaro (Vazquez) had troubles with their muscles, so we didn't want to take the risk. So when you miss these runners who want to go behind the opponent's defence, we know Hyderabad FC is the best team, they have shown it the whole season.

But I think we played very well in the first half. We were on the better side. We were passing the ball well, we had a couple of good chances. We knew one goal can decide everything in this type of game. Unfortunately, at the end we conceded that goal. Then we had to fight again in extra time. I tried to change certain things to put some fresh legs from the bench to get running patterns. We are sorry to lose on penalties but we had a good season and we hope to continue.

 

Do you get a feeling that the Hero ISL title is just not meant for Kerala Blasters FC?

I don't believe in bad luck. It was about penalties. If we see our points in the regular season it was double than last season. We had so many wins, back-to-back clean sheets. I think the boys did a great job. In the final anything can happen. But we were happy to be in the final after six years. It was a great achievement. Everyone in Kerala should be happy and the final should be even bigger motivation to continue.

A word on the fans who despite the loss continued to support you.

It was strange to come out of the stadium and see fans. We were trying to remember the last time we were in the stadium with the fans and couldn’t remember. We were so pleased and grateful that they arrived from Kerala and it was great to see them here. We were enjoying that today and big thank you to all of them.

You said in the pre-match press conference that a lot of these players were going to play the final for the first time. How do you explain this defeat to them?

In football, this is part and parcel of your career. They felt the way and saw the way they could achieve victory in this final. So, hopefully this will not be the only time they play in a final. I hope many of them will play more finals. But the good thing is when you work throughout the season and you see all those things then you know the recipe and know how it can be achieved. So this is the beauty of football and I hope many of them you will see in more finals.

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