Not counting the one-goal advantage, it’s a new game altogether: Kerala Blasters FC's Ivan Vukomanovic

Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic is adamant to start afresh and erase the one-goal advantage from the first-leg subconsciously as they are set to lock horns with Jamshedpur FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 semi-final match at the Tilak Maidan Stadium, in Vasco, on Tuesday evening.

Up against the League Winners’ Shield holders, the Blasters edged past them by virtue of a solitary goal from Sahal Abdul Samad in the 38th minute in the last game. As things stand, a draw in the semi-final second leg will be enough for the Kerala-based team to qualify for the final.

Vukomanovic addressed the media in the pre-match press conference ahead of Tuesday’s game.

Here are the excerpts from the press conference:

How important is it to make your players understand that it is not ideal to try and preserve the lead for the entire 90 minutes, because that might eventually create pressure on Kerala Blasters FC?

Vukomanovic: Well, we won't even look any more at the last game, even that result 1-0. It doesn't give us any guarantee, no security for tomorrow's game. Tomorrow's game is a new game. It's a new day. We have to play with full concentration and focus on all the things that we want to achieve and show on the pitch.

Tomorrow we are starting our game 0-0, like playing finals, actually every game since we started this competition, it was like that because we don't expect anybody to help us. We have to enter the fight, it will be a physical fight, it will be even harder and more difficult than the last one.

Jamshedpur FC head coach Owen Coyle said that Kerala Blasters FC were celebrating like they have won the World Cup after the way your team celebrated after the last win. What are your thoughts on that?

Vukomanovic: Actually, we celebrate every game. Seeing our spot in the playoffs, we are the underdogs. We are not the favourites. And, of course, seeing the fact that we have won against the team who had seven victories in the row and then won the league, for us , it is a good achievement. We celebrate every game, every victory, because we know that nothing we achieve was offered to us, nothing was given to us just like that, we had to fight for them.

And of course, when you fight for those things and you achieve victories, I think you have to celebrate. So even tomorrow we know that our opponents are the favourites. We’ll try to play a solid game, try to be a tough opponent.

What will be your message to the players ahead of the semi-final second leg?

Vukomanovic: In this kind of game it's a pleasure as a football player, you find yourself privileged to be in that kind of situation, playing for the finals, playing for the qualification and playing for the high stakes. And again, I was mentioning that many times when you start playing football, you dream about those moments, you dream about these games and you work so hard.

Every boy is working so hard to achieve. And it must be a pleasure. Of course, being concentrated, being humble, being focused on your game, being focused on the things that you have to do, to perform on the pitch, these kinds of things are important too. Our message will be like that, with certain things that we want to try on the pitch tomorrow with certain movements, and all these things, like the small parts of preparation for one big puzzle that you want to complete.

So tomorrow it will be a team talk with the motivation that we are doing it for ourselves. We deserve to be here, where we are standing now. And many people who are happy with us, they deserve to be happy. It goes to all the fans and everybody who are supporting us this season and the previous season as well, they all deserve to see the team, where we are standing now and hopefully we can also reach the final, which is our objective.

Blasters’ defender Marko Leskovic was also present at the press conference and addressed the questions put forward by the media.

Here are the excerpts from the player's press conference:

You formed a good partnership with Ruivah Hormipam, having conceded very few goals when you both played together. How is your partnership developing with him and how do you see him as a player?

Leskovic: Of course, he plays well, we kept a lot of clean sheets. He plays very solid in the defence. He is a player with a lot of promise, he gives his best in the training as well as the matches. Hormipam gives everything and is a good player. He deserves to be in the national team also.

You have been a part of an important defensive unit in the league and started in most of the matches this season. However, tomorrow is going to be a very tough test of your abilities. How are you preparing for that?

Leskovic: So, I expect the same game as last time. A lot of aggression, a lot of duels, a lot of fights. But we like these games, we are ready for this. In this season, we have a group of players who enjoy giving the best for their team. They are mentally very strong, who give everything for the team. We enjoy playing big games with big pressure, with big tension. And, I'm sure we’ll enjoy tomorrow.

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