It was not the best of starts for East Bengal FC as the Red & Golds suffered a 1-3 defeat to Kerala Blasters FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 opener at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Kochi, on Friday.

It turned out to be a cagey opening half in Kochi, but two quick-fire goals from Adrian Luna and substitute Ivan Kaliuzhnyi in late second half were enough to put East Bengal FC in trouble, who then fought back with a goal from Alex Lima, but debutant Kaliuzhnyi netted a wonderful half-volley within no time to put the game to bed.

Second Half Goalfest Sees Blasters Secure Win Against East Bengal

EBFC head coach Stephen Constantine was not happy with his side’s defensive organisation, but felt there were plenty of positives despite the defeat.

Here are the excerpts from his press conference:

What are the positives from this game? 

Firstly, I want to congratulate Ivan (Vukomanovic) and his team. They won the game fair and square. I don’t want to sit here and make excuses. We’re a young team, we have been training for six weeks, and so on and so forth, but that is actually the case.

I thought we did okay in the first half. We had the first chance. In the second half we lacked a little bit of concentration at times (and), Luna scored a worldie. But he shouldn't have been in that position and somebody should have gone with him. We made mistakes and we didn't help ourselves, out of the other positives, of course.

They (Kerala Blasters FC) finished fourth last year in the league, a settled team, (with the) same coach, so I think for the first half we matched them, and in the second half, I think we lost a little bit of momentum. Conceding the second goal was a killer and then to get one back showed the type of team that we’re going to be. We’re not going to hold over. And then of course, the lapse of concentration and the third goal went in from the edge of the box. Again, from a corner, but should not have happened.

Were the last 20 minutes as much about physical conditioning than anything else?

I think it's about match practice. I think we’re physically fit but when you don’t have competitive games under your belt (it’s going to be difficult). I guess the closest example we could take was the game against Mumbai City FC in the Durand Cup. For us, that was a big test. We did okay, but in that game we could make multiple substitutions. It’s not nice to lose, but we will learn from this. We got a game coming up, and we move on. Again, congratulations to Ivan and his team.

You’ve had your own sentiment towards the Indian fans. With them coming back, how was it - as a former coach and now as an away team coach?

It was a fantastic reception from the Kerala fans, I appreciate that. Of course, the first Hero ISL game (in Kochi) after two years of not having fans is massive. And you could see the atmosphere, I mean, it's just unbelievable. I don’t think we realise what we have here in India with football. I really don’t. And once we figured out how to get the best out of it, India should be qualifying for Asian Cups every two-three years, and the World Cup in the future, but we need to do a lot of things together.