Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera was happy to claim all three points against East Bengal as they edged past the Red and Gold Brigade in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Thursday.

The visitors kicked off in style, scoring within the first 32 seconds of the game through Vishnu PV, who managed to take his shot while surrounded by four Odisha FC players. Despite Carles Cuadrat’s side stealing an early lead, they couldn’t hold on for long. In the 38th minute, East Bengal FC right-back Mohamad Rakip made a clumsy challenge on Diego Mauricio, conceding a penalty that Mauricio converted with ease to level the scores.

Sixty-one minutes into the match, Ahmed Jahouh sent in a corner kick that Princeton Rebello managed to guide past the keeper with an awkward touch, giving his team the lead they held until the final whistle. The match concluded 2-1 for the Kalinga Warriors, and with this win, they extended their unbeaten run at home to ten matches.

Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera shared his thoughts following their win. 

The two sides last met at the Kalinga Super Cup 2024 final, where East Bengal FC got the better of Lobera’s men, securing a narrow 3-2 win in extra time. When asked about seeking revenge, the head coach denied perceiving Thursday's win as such.

“I don't want to think about revenge. I think all the teams are playing for something. It's very important for us today to get three points because, you know, we are in a very crucial part of the season. We are in a very good position, and these three points were essential for us. I am very happy about this game,” stated Lobera in the post-match press conference. 

He continued, “Super Cup final was a different competition, a different game. I am very happy with the performance of my team (today) and to get three points against a very good team (East Bengal FC).”

With this win, the Kalinga Warriors stay atop the league table, securing 35 points from their 17 matches. Mohun Bagan SG, currently sitting third on the league table, have 30 points with two fewer matches. Victories in their next two matches would push them above Odisha FC to the top spot.

On being asked whether the Spaniard considers his team to be the favourites to win the League Shield, he replied, “I don't think so. I think we need to go step-by-step. We are in a very good position. We need to enjoy this moment.”

“We are very excited about this challenge (to win the League Shield),” he added.

Pivotal midfielder Jahouh missed the clash against Mohun Bagan SG on Saturday due to suspension. Stepping back on the pitch on Thursday, the Moroccan ensured he reminded everyone of his impact on the team, contributing the assist to their winning goal while also dominating the middle of the pitch throughout the game.

Lobera believes that, although Jahouh played an important role in their win over East Bengal FC, it’s more about good team performance than any individual contribution.

“I think we need to compete as a team. We need to work as a team. You want to win trophies, you need to have a very good team and a very good squad. And even with suspensions or injuries, you need to compete,” he shared.

Odisha FC take the field next on March 3, when they travel to face Chennaiyin FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai. 

Sharing his approach towards the upcoming match, the 47-year-old said, “Every game will be tough, till the end of the season, because all the teams are playing for something. For Chennaiyin, it's very important to win the next game (against us). Also (it was the same) for East Bengal FC, today (Thursday), trying to reach the playoffs. And all the teams are involved in something, now till the end of the season, the remaining five games.”

“But, again, Chennaiyin FC will be a difficult game for sure because they have a strong team, difficult to play against them. But, we need to be ready for these challenges if we want to keep going, because it's important, not only this game, (but) the momentum of the team (that we have currently),” he signed off.