It feels good to be back with a victory: Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic
Adrian Luna netted a late winner against Odisha FC, allowing Kerala Blasters FC to maintain their unbeaten home record this season.
Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic expressed his delight as his team returned to winning ways in the Indian Super League (ISL) with a hard-fought victory against Odisha FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday.
It was Odisha FC, who took the lead in the first half, much to the shock of the home crowd. However, Kerala Blasters FC fought back in the second half, with Dimitri Diamantakos equalising and Adrian Luna scoring a late winner, allowing them to maintain their unbeaten home record this season. Vukomanovic, who returned to the dugout after serving his suspension, expressed his joy at being back with the team.
“It feels amazing. Not only because of the victory, but the fact of being back on the pitch with the boys, with the team. Being back in the dugout. Being capable of reacting to certain situations and trying to help the team the way we can as a coach because sometimes in this kind of environment and games, there is not much that you can do. Especially when the boys are in a good rhythm,” he said in the post-match press conference.
Vukomanovic praised his team's comeback in the second half and highlighted the impressive performance of goalkeeper Sachin Suresh, who saved a penalty taken by Mauricio, keeping his team in the game.
“It feels amazing, the way we responded and the way we played in the second half. Even in the first half we had a couple of moments but I think from an emotional side, the boys had a couple of difficulties in the first half. When we conceded after some mistakes, we had to correct those things. Then the penalty which saved us and gave us a mental boost. Great stuff from our young keeper Sachin, catching the penalty and catching the second ball (attempt) as well. And then the boys got the grip of the game. The feeling of being in the game and being pushed by the fans and (started) creating more. At the end, when you see the victory and the three points, which is the most important, we should all be happy,” he revealed.
This is the second consecutive home game in which Kerala Blasters FC has come from behind to secure a positive result. In their previous home match against NorthEast United FC, they also conceded first but managed to equalise in the second half. The same pattern continued against Odisha FC, with the team equalising after the break. They posed significant challenges to Sergio Lobera's side in the second half, and their perseverance paid off.
Vukomanovic revealed that he was aware of Odisha FC's less-than-ideal physical condition, as they had played an AFC Cup game just three days prior. He wanted his players to capitalise on this fatigue in the second half.
“At half-time, we (coaching staff) had a couple of things to say (to the team). How to be more organised, how to be more quick and brave in pressing moments. We put our opponents in many difficult moments while building up. We know that Odisha FC are a team that likes to keep the ball, keeps possession, they like to build up,” he explained.
“Today also was, let's say, not a 100 percent correct score because we had an opponent who was coming after one difficult game three days ago (in the AFC Cup). Then there is the physical aspect. We knew that maybe our opponent could struggle in the second half and we wanted to push even harder which resulted in two goals. That’s a part of football. They are a wonderful team and have great players on an individual side with quality. They have a great coach. I think they will be better and better this season. But from our side, it feels good to be back with a victory,” he added.