Odisha FC’s phenomenal Durand Cup campaign was brought to an end by Bengaluru FC in the quarter-final as they went down to a last-second goal by the Blues in extra-time, even after keeping them quiet with 10 men throughout the rest of the game.

The Juggernauts side that was filled with new signings, a blend of young and experienced players, and a few old names caused problems to every team they faced as they achieved a 100% win record, winning all their group stage games while also not conceding a single goal throughout that phase.

The man behind this remarkable team, Josep Gombau, led his side’s first professional game in charge in the prestigious competition and found the right formula to mould his team to his standards. After a bittersweet end to their Durand Cup campaign, Gombau reviewed his side’s performance, spoke about the upcoming Hero ISL season and a lot more in an exclusive interview with Odisha FC Media Team.

Here are the excerpts from the head coach

On Odisha FC’s Durand Cup campaign

For us, it was a positive experience. We had a long pre-season in which we played five games - four group stage matches and one quarter-final. Everything was well arranged, the training pitch had good quality. I’m happy with my team, and I think, for us, it was difficult for us to play the final games of the pre-season.

It is not easy to find the level of teams to play such friendly games and to play in the Durand Cup brings us a long time between games which allows us to train and also to have the quality games for our team to play in the pre-season. We’ve spent five weeks in the tournament and I’ve liked the tournament, it was our first participation, and we should be playing this [Durand Cup] next season too.

On the quarter-final vs Bengaluru FC

It was a good game for us, not sure about Bengaluru FC. It was a game which was equal, in the beginning we had a very good chance to score and another chance before half-time. In the second half, we endured a difficulty with Shubham [Sarangi] getting a red card as we were playing the game with 10 men but even in such a situation we got into extra-time.

Bengaluru FC scored a goal, we equalised, but in the end, we lost the ball in the very last second of the game as BFC scored with the help of a great goal from Roy Krishna and we lost the game in the 121st minute. I liked how my players fought till the very end and how we brought back the game to a draw with 10 men. I think it was a game that showed how the players gave their 100-120% and that we can be competitive on the field against any team in the ISL.

On building up to the new Hero ISL season

We have a very good team, we got three good keepers now that we’ve signed Amrinder [Singh], who is someone who comes with a lot of experience and is one of the best keepers in India. We have Mawia [Lalthuammawia Ralte] and a young keeper in Niraj [Kumar] that will help us.

We have a balanced team with good players in each position - good defence, midfield, and attacking players. I think we can make noise this year and we understand that every single game, we need to bring our 100-120% on the pitch and we need to be competitive.

On signing Amrinder Singh

With the departure of Kamaljit Singh to East Bengal FC, we lost an experienced goalkeeper from the team and started looking for replacements. In India, it is difficult as not many are experienced goalkeepers but then we saw this opportunity in the transfer market, so we spoke to Amrinder and he was happy to come to Odisha FC.

So, no doubt, with him and his experience, he brings a lot of value to the team. He is someone that our team needs and for sure, he will fit very well in the team, and we are incredibly happy to have him.