Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera was proud of his players despite his side succumbing to a narrow 2-1 loss against Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Mumbai Football Arena in Mumbai on Monday.

In an extremely competitive fixture, Jorge Pereyra Diaz opened the scoring for the Islanders in the 22nd minute of the match, but the Kalinga Warriors came right back in the game with Diego Mauricio bagging their equalizer within the next three minutes.

Although it was an intense game with opportunities and beautiful football, it was Mumbai City FC who had the last laugh, courtesy of a Lallianzuala Chhangte goal in the 61st minute that ensured Mumbai City FC all three points, bringing an end to Odisha FC’s League Shield chase. 

The head coach, however upset with the loss, denies feeling disappointed with his team as he is proud of how his players kept fighting till the very end. 

“I cannot use the word disappointing because we are seeing my players fighting to the end,” stated Lobera in the post-match press conference.

He continued, "I am very proud of my players. They are having an amazing season in three different competitions, playing a lot of games, and they made a big effort today. They believed until the end; they continued fighting.”

Odisha FC registered 49.9% possession compared to Mumbai City FC’s 50.1%, exhibiting the competitiveness of the match. 

The Spaniard shared insights from the game, emphasizing the competitiveness of the match.

“It's true, I think, in the first half, we had an equal footing. Maybe in the second half, conceding the second goal affected us a lot, and it was difficult for us to manage the situation because, at that moment, we had our chances, but they were more impulsive than dominating the game and possessing the ball. We were not as comfortable as in our other games," Lobera stated.

The Islanders' win tonight resulted in both Odisha FC and FC Goa being eliminated from the League Shield race. With this win, Mumbai City FC have strengthened their grip over the league leaders’ spot with 47 points from their 21 matches, closely followed by Mohun Bagan SG who have registered 42 points with a game in hand. 

On the level of competition in the ongoing ISL season, Lobera said, “The competition now is in an amazing moment. There are two very strong teams (Mumbai City FC and Mohun Bagan SG) competing.”

The 47-year-old believes Odisha FC’s 2023-24 season has been successful till now and accredits their attack-defense balance for the same.

He said, “We need to prepare well for the playoffs and let's see what happens because we are very excited about this different opportunity (to compete for the ISL Cup). But I think the key factor for us is that we are playing attacking football, we are scoring goals, but also, we have balance. You know, we have a lot of clean sheets. And I think this is the key to having a very good season.”

I think this team has a winning mentality,” he added.

The Kalinga Warriors next play NorthEast United FC on April 13 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati to wrap up their league stage, post which they will next take the pitch in the playoffs.

Sharing insights into how he is approaching the knockout stages, Lobera commented, “No, we are preparing for the next game. We need to think about this game (against NorthEast United FC). And then there are no preferences (among the teams in the knockout stages) because all the teams are arriving at a good moment. I think in the playoffs, all the teams are very strong. And, the most important for us is to put focus on ourselves. We need to continue working. We need to continue improving.”