Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic was delighted with the way his team performed after going down to 10 men in their 2-1 win against the NorthEast United FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Goa on Friday.

Jorge Pereyra Diaz (62') scored the opener with a strike from close range. Twenty minutes later, Alvaro Vazquez (82') scored an astonishing long-range goal and doubled Kerala Blasters FC’s lead. The Highlanders pulled one back through Mohamed Irshad (90+6') but it wasn’t enough to mount a comeback.

Also Read: Kerala Blasters FC’s second-half salvo secures victory against NorthEast United FC

Kerala Blasters FC moved to the second spot and now have 23 points from 13 games. They are just three points behind table-toppers Hyderabad FC and have a game in hand.

Vukomanovic addressed the media during the post-match press conference. Here are the excerpts from the press conference:

How pleased are you with this performance?

I must admit that I'm really pleased because we knew that before this game, that for us, it will be the most difficult game of the season. When you are facing the opponent who actually has nothing to lose the and come to play a relaxed game. From our side, where you're facing this moment where you need to win, you must win, you must get those points. And especially with all the things that have happened in the last period with COVID and isolation. Today, for us, it was really hard, especially in the first half, where we wanted to show certain things that we didn't show, and actually, in the dressing room, we needed to say certain things to shuffle a little bit, our situation.

And then in the second half, we responded in a correct way, because we needed to make the difference, we needed to push harder, we need to score the goals to achieve three points. As a coach, I'm very pleased because in difficult circumstances, and especially in our difficult moments, fighting for the top of the table, to be there, to stay there, and to compete till the end, we knew that we had to overcome ourselves today. And again, for us so far, it was the most difficult game and we have to continue working hard, even if now we will have less time with many games. But again, we must be content tonight. Need to relax, recharge, recover and get ready for the next game. 

You scored even after going a man down. Does this speak a lot about the character of the team?

In these kinds of games, like today, you don't have to show the quality that you are a magician, you don't have to show the quality that you can play nice football. Because sometimes in these kinds of games, you have to win with mentality, with character, with fighting, with a commitment to your team and your teammates. And that, as a coach, makes me really happy. Because comparing maybe with previous periods of our club, I'm happy. We are all happy that we are in this season, playing like fighters, wanting to achieve the points, fighting together for every ball. And then we knew that with one man down, we had to organize ourselves maybe more defensively, but yet again, scoring the second goal like that in that manner. Of course, it was a pleasure to see the top quality. And let's say at that moment, it was a kind of relief kind of relaxing moment. But then we had to fight till the end, it was hard and difficult. And I think tonight we will take rest a little bit in trying to prepare for the next games. 

How difficult is it for a youngster like Ayush Adhikari who got sent off?

From my side, it doesn't matter. Ayush is a great guy and a great player, with the huge potential to improve even more. And he himself as a young player must understand that in these kinds of circumstances he must perform. I'm very happy with his performance today.

Even he got two yellow cards, it happens in football, he must continue working hard. I'm sorry for him that he will be suspended for the next game. But you know, that's football, this thing happens. And these kinds of things we call experience. So maybe in the next games in the future, he will not repeat these mistakes. That’s how we become better. That's how we improve as a player and as a person.

Would you have liked to keep a clean sheet today?

Yeah, I must be honest, say that I was not pleased with the goal. We conceded at the end, it is already the second time we had that situation. We had it the same in the first part of the season against Odisha, where we had a two-zero lead. And then we concede the goal at the very last minute like today. And of course, it's always better when you have a clean sheet because I think that so far we are the team who had the most clean sheets in the league. We want to continue building up because I think that if we are defensively strong that we can always make difference in front.

So tonight, I think even with one man down we were strong behind, we were not allowing our opponent to create something dangerous, except that great shot at the end. But anyway, we must be pleased with three points. This is the most important especially in this part of the season. In this format of the league. We must continue because now it will be just fighting for the points.