Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic shared his disappointment after his side lost to Punjab FC by a 3-1 scoreline in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Monday.

Milos Drincic opened the scoring for the hosts in the 39th minute following a corner kick conceded by Punjab FC. Despite this setback, Staikos Vergetis's side mounted a strong comeback, with Wilmar Gil netting a brace and Luka Majcen adding another goal. This comeback secured a noteworthy victory for Punjab FC against the Blasters.

This marked the inaugural home defeat for Kerala Blasters FC in the current season. Vukomanovic admitted that Punjab FC outperformed his team in Kochi and clarified that the absence of key players like Adrian Luna and Kwame Peprah should not be attributed as the sole cause for the defeat.

“Our opponent deservedly won the game. They were the better team. They played better. I don't like to give an excuse for losing several key players. For these kinds of games, the other players have to step up and create good dynamics to win these games,” he said in the post-match press conference.

This marked the second consecutive defeat for Kerala Blasters FC, bringing their total number of losses to four this season. With 26 points from 14 games, they currently trail the table-toppers, Odisha FC, by five points. Vukomanovic conveyed his frustration with the errors made by his team, expressing the belief that these mistakes proved costly against Punjab FC.

“Tonight, it's a disappointing evening. Disappointed about the things that I saw tonight — the things that we were not practicing. Apart from scoring the goal in the first half, many wrong decisions actually led us to this defeat. As a coach, it's really disappointing. If we continue with this kind of approach, we can easily lose all the games till the end, that's for sure,” he stated.

Kerala Blasters FC enjoyed a greater share of possession against Punjab FC and generated several promising chances. Despite scoring the opening goal, they struggled to break through the opposition defense. Kerala Blasters managed only three shots on target, while Punjab FC doubled that tally in the match.

When asked to explain by the Blasters struggled to score despite dominanting ball possession, Vukomanovic said: “First of all, it's a lack of quality in making good decisions in the last third of the pitch. If we look statistically, in this season, we won in all the games when we had a lower percentage of ball possession. In games, where we were dominant, having this kind of possession like tonight, we lost. There is no reason for that (inability to convert our chances). We can speak about passing and all these (other) things but in ISL it doesnt count at all. Maybe on some other levels, it can make a difference but here again (in the ISL), the decisions you make in the last third in front of goal (matter)."

“In front of the goal, when we were dominating and creating chances, we were not good enough with quality to score goals when we needed them. Then, there was a lack of responsibility and concentration to concede those goals. It must not happen on this level, especially if we want to stay high up the table,” he added.

Before this match, Kerala Blasters FC had been on an impressive seven-match unbeaten streak at home this season, securing victories in five of those games. Vukomanovic acknowledged the team's overall strength in home games this season but highlighted their subpar performance against Punjab FC. He emphasised the importance of learning from the mistakes made in the match and urged the team to improve in future fixtures.

“In this stadium (in Kochi), we showed in the past that we can manage harder games and win against better opponents, but tonight that was not the case. Tonight, we were worse. And that's the reality. We have to accept that,” he asserted.

“So then, as a coach, the first responsibility is mine. I have to work on that. And of course, with that honesty and reality, we have to build up further on, and going towards the end of the league, eight more games for us to fight; how and what we have to do it,” he signed off.