Odisha FC head coach Josep Gombau praised his side’s mentality as the Juggernauts got the better of Chennaiyin FC in a five-goal thriller in matchweek 8 of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Kalinga Stadium, in Bhubaneswar, on Thursday.

The Kalinga Warriors were leading by 2-0 through an own goal from Vafa Hakhamaneshi and a Diego Mauricio penalty, but the visitors crawled back into the game as Abdenasser El Khayati netted a brace late into the game. However, Gombau’s side found a way to score the winning goal with Nandhakumar Sekar getting on the scoresheet during injury time in the 96th minute. The victory takes Odisha FC up to third place, level on points with second-placed Mumbai City FC.

Gombau was delighted with the way his side responded and rescued a late win as OFC kept their 100% win record at home intact this season. The Spaniard also heaped praise on winger Sekar, who has now scored two goals in as many games for Odisha FC.

Here are the excerpts from Gombau’s post-match press conference:

Can you summarise the game for us?

First of all, we are happy with the three points that we got. The first half was very good and we dominated it. We scored and we had a couple more chances to go into half time, winning 2-0. The second half was more equal. We scored a penalty, but Chennaiyin FC pressed us a lot and they played well. They are a good team with a strong winning mentality and after that, it was 2-2.

Even at 2-2, we tried to score the third goal and we scored after a minute. We showed the mentality and the character that the boys have and we take it game by game (from here). (At the moment), the Hero ISL standings are very close and if we had lost, Chennayin FC would have gone up ahead of us. I’m happy with the way the players fought until the last minute to win the game.

Two goals in two games for Nandhakumar. Your thoughts on his performance?

We are so happy with Nandha, and he is a very important player for us. He has a lot of quality and he is a player that I like and I believe in him. Together as a team, we do the job, but having someone like him, it’s not just that he scores, but the way that he works when we don’t have the ball. We are also happy with (Jerry Mawihmingthanga). The last goal came from Jerry’s anticipation and Nandha finished. Last week (against East Bengal), both of them scored the third and the fourth goal that allowed us to win the game.

Nandhakumar has been with the club since its inception and you coached him while you were at Odisha FC during the Hero ISL 2019-20 season. Your thoughts on his progress since then?

When I was here, I liked him a lot as we played with open wingers and he is kind of a player that could play like this. If I am honest, the season after I left, Nandha performed much more. Last season, he was better. But every coach has different ways of seeing the game and if you play with open wingers, it is different than playing with wingers who play inside. Players that don’t fit well in one system, can fit in another system, and this doesn’t mean that the players are not good. For the way that we play, Nandhakumar and Jerry are very important for us. That is the reason they are playing every week and are doing well.

The Kalinga stadium is turning out to be a fortress for Odisha FC this season. Your thoughts on the supporters?

It is excellent. We are happy to be here. The supporters help us in games like today where we won at the last moment. We want them to enjoy, and want them to come back (for every home game). Game by game, we will do our best. We can’t control if we win or lose the game, but what we can assure that we will try to win every single game and make the spectators enjoy.

Odisha FC face NorthEast United FC next. Where do you go from here now?

On Friday, we will try to recover. After this, we have a couple of days off because we have been playing a lot for a long time. After that, we have four days to prepare for the game. The most important thing is the spirit and mentality of the team. Now we have a couple of days where the players can refresh their minds and come back on Monday.