Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic lamented his team's missed opportunities as they suffered a defeat to East Bengal FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) clash at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Wednesday.

The match in Kochi turned into a goal-scoring spectacle, with East Bengal FC emerging victorious after a total of six goals were scored.

Initially, Kerala Blasters FC took the lead courtesy of Fedor Cernych, but Saul Crespo equalised from the penalty spot in injury time of the first half, bringing the scores level at halftime. The second half witnessed a flurry of goals, with East Bengal FC turning the tide in their favour. Crespo and Naorem Mahesh added to the tally for East Bengal FC, while a Hijazi Maher own goal reduced the deficit for the home team. However, Mahesh struck again in the dying moments to restore East Bengal FC's two-goal advantage, which helped them secure the three points in the end. 

The Blasters' situation worsened when they were reduced to nine men in the 74th minute, with defender Naocha Singh receiving a red card, adding to Jeakson Singh's earlier dismissal at half-time. Vukomanovic acknowledged that his team had opportunities to win the game but noted that the difference in quality in the final third between the two sides ultimately made the decisive impact.

“When you are playing with men down to nine, down to eight, it’s game over. Even at 1-1 or 2-1, we had the chances. We could have scored. But again, the chances that you don’t score, you get punished on the other side. It’s again, the lack of quality, the lack of final pass, final touch, these are the kind of things that we are dealing with this season,” he said in the post-match press conference. 

Despite the setback, the Blasters maintain their position in fifth place in the league standings with 30 points from 20 games. They stand a chance to climb up to fourth place and equal FC Goa's points tally of 36 points if they secure maximum points in their next two league fixtures and achieve a positive goal difference over the Gaurs, contingent upon FC Goa faltering in all their remaining league games.

Vukomanovic's team is set to travel to Guwahati to face NorthEast United FC on Saturday and then journey south to take on Hyderabad FC on April 12. Vukomanovic expressed satisfaction with his team's playoff qualification and stressed the significance of thorough preparation for the upcoming playoffs.

“Whether you win games or lose games, whatever happens, issues, injuries, you try to stay positive because this is the way that you will improve your life. Of course, now, we are happy as a club. We must be honest and say we are somewhere where we wanted to be. Even this year, we couldn’t control certain things, losing certain key players which may have led us to some other heights, but anyway, today we are here (in the playoffs) and we have to continue with positivity,” he stated. 

“Especially now till the 12th of April, playing two more games. Tomorrow (Thursday) morning we are leaving for Guwahati and going with that, going with the fixtures, prepare as good as possible for the playoffs and hopefully try to make a surprise and achieve something nice as the underdogs,” he expressed.