Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera shared his satisfaction after his side staged a comeback victory against Mohun Bagan SG by a 2-1 scoreline in the first leg of the semi-final 1 in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday.

The Mariners took the lead early with a headed goal from Manvir Singh, marking the second-fastest goal in the ISL playoffs. However, the hosts responded swiftly, equalizing within eight minutes through Carlos Delgado's clinical finish from a Ahmed Jahouh corner.

In the 39th minute, Roy Krishna provided his team with a valuable lead in this intense match, exhibiting goal-scoring prowess as he capitalized on an individual error by Mohun Bagan SG defender Hector Yuste to beat Vishal Kaith at the near post. With this goal, Krishna now boasts 13 goals in the ISL 2023–24 season, becoming Odisha FC’s record goal-scorer in a single campaign.

This victory marked Odisha FC’s inaugural ISL triumph against the Mariners, breaking a streak of nine winless encounters for the Kalinga Warriors.

Lobera expressed his delight with his players' performance, highlighting their collective determination and resilience in staging yet another comeback win on home turf. The Spaniard commended his players' fighting spirit, emphasizing their composure until the final whistle to secure victory in the opening leg of this semi-final fixture.

"As always, this team has shown everyone strong character, quality, and a strong mentality. It's not the first time we've come back after conceding a goal. The reaction of the players is very important because when we concede a goal in a big, important game like today or against a strong team like Mohun Bagan SG, it’s not easy to react (after conceding the goal),” he said in the post-match press conference.

“But I’m very happy and proud of my players because the reaction was amazing. We continue to be loyal to our style of play, trying to dominate the game. We dominated many phases of the game and generated several chances. It’s very important if you want to win big games—to have this mentality and character. And the team showed this mentality and character in a difficult situation, conceding one goal early,” he added.

Lobera’s team has achieved remarkable success this season when playing in front of their supporters. They finished the season unbeaten at home, winning nine out of their 12 home games, while the other three ended in draws. The head coach expressed his gratitude to the supporters who stood by their team through thick and thin.

“There is no secret. Finally, the team works hard; they are having an amazing season. It’s a big achievement, big numbers to be unbeaten at home, and I also want to say ‘thank you’ to our supporters because they are pushing us and helping us in difficult moments,” he commented.

“Because pushing us in a good moment and being with us in a good moment is very easy. But when you’re in difficult moments, during the game or some period of the season, it’s important to have them push us. They also deserve these results, and I'm very happy with these results because, I think, it’s a big achievement,” he continued.

Odisha FC’s defensive mainstay, Carlos Delgado, will miss the second leg in Kolkata due to his suspension. The Spanish defender was sent off in the 74th minute after receiving two yellow cards in the game.

Addressing the absence of one of his most dependable players, he remarked, "It’s painful to lose one player like Carlos (Delgado) in this situation with two yellow cards. But this is football. We need to be ready for the challenge.”

Lobera is optimistic about achieving a favourable outcome in the second leg of the first semi-final on Sunday, despite facing strong home support.

Speaking about the challenges of playing at the home of the Mariners, Lobera stated: "It’s amazing to play against a lot of supporters in their stadium. When you are playing in front of lots of supporters, it means that you are playing for something important. We are ready for this challenge, we are feeling excited, and we are enjoying the moment. We aren't feeling the pressure.”

“Finally, maybe we can get the victory at their home. As we did before, we are ready for this. We are excited about this. We are going to prepare the game to win in Kolkata,” he signed off.