Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera feels excited as they prepare to defend their lead against Mohun Bagan Super Giant in the second leg of semi-final 1 of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Sunday. 

With their first-leg win over the Mariners on Tuesday, Odisha FC have remained unbeaten at home throughout the ISL 2023-24 season. The Kalinga Warriors came back from 0-1 down to end the match with a 2-1 scoreline, courtesy of goals from Carlos Delgado and Roy Krishna.

Taking the pitch in Kolkata on Sunday for the second leg, Lobera’s men will look forward to sustaining their lead.

The head coach is amazed at his team's feat of concluding the ongoing ISL season unbeaten at home.

It is amazing. Amazing numbers, an amazing experience. The atmosphere (at home), was very good for us. It’s a big achievement,” stated Lobera in the post-match press conference. 

He continued, “ I think the players did an amazing job. Also, our supporters helped us a lot, pushing us in our good moments and our bad moments.”

“But this is the past. We need to put the focus on the next game. And hopefully we can reach the final,” he added.

Back in November 2023, the two teams met in Kolkata for their AFC Cup group stage fixture and the away team registered a dominating 2-5 win, overcoming the pressure of playing Mohun Bagan SG in front of their huge fanbase. 

On being asked whether the Spaniard is concerned about facing Mohun Bagan SG in their home, even though Odisha FC currently hold the lead, Lobera used their AFC Cup encounter as an example.

“Big game against a big team. In a very good stadium. Difficult place to play. But, we did it, in the AFC Cup also. The team showed the character we need to show for big games, and I am excited about this game. I am confident because our players, always this season, have shown everyone that they are ready for the games and I am excited about this challenge with a positive mentality because I think we can get a very good result and to reach a final,” he shared with confidence.

He added, “When you are playing in front of a lot of people in a stadium like this, full (stadium), means you are playing for something important. I think it is a big motivation for me as a coach, for the players. I think it is good to play this kind of game.”

Carlos Delgado will miss the second leg owing to his red card in the first leg, where he influenced his team to their first win against Mohun Bagan SG in the ISL this season, scoring Odisha FC’s equaliser. 

The 47-year-old is disheartened at the loss of their star defender but chooses to confide in his remaining players for the crucial second leg. 

Lobera said, “Obviously to lose Carlos is painful, and also the way we lost him.”

“But, in the end we don't need to try to find excuses. Me, as a coach, I need to try to find solutions,” he commented. 

Emphasizing his confidence, he shared, “We need to be ready, and we have enough squad to play against them. But for sure, as a coach, I prefer to have all the players available.”

Summarizing the 2023-24 season for the Kalinga Warriors, Lobera stated, “It has been an amazing job from the players, from the staff, or the people who are working with me. I think it's important to enjoy the way (leading us here to the semi-final), to enjoy this moment. And we need to know the responsibility we have. And our responsibility is to make the people (our fans) happy.”

It excites me to play against a good side: Jerry Mawihmingthanga

Mizoram-born forward Jerry Mawihmingthanga accompanied Lobera to the press conference.

In his 16 matches so far this season, the 27-year-old has bagged himself a couple of goals and an assist while creating eight goalscoring chances for his team.

Sharing insights on his outlook towards the second leg, he said, “It's always good to play against a good side and it's a good feeling to play these kinds of matches for every player, like the coach said. So, I think it's really exciting, it really excites me more so that we try our best and give our best for the team.”

Jerry expressed his gratitude towards the fans for helping the Kalinga Warriors remain invincible at home this season.

He stated, “It was amazing to play. Our fans are amazing. So, keep supporting us. Let's hope we do a great thing for Odisha FC.”

“By God’s grace, I hope (we lift the ISL Cup),” Jerry signed off.