FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez felt the unfortunate substitution of Borja Herrera was the key factor in his side's 4-2 defeat to Kerala Blasters FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday.

FC Goa held a commanding 2-0 lead at halftime thanks to goals from Rowllin Borges and Mohammad Yasir. However, Kerala Blasters launched a remarkable comeback in the second half. Daisuke Sakai pulled one back with a stunning free-kick.

Greek forward Dimitrios Diamantakos scored two goals in quick succession while Lithuanian international Fedor Cernych scored the other to complete the turnaround and secure a crucial victory for the Blasters, ending their three-match losing streak.

Herrera was forced off injured, while Marquez also substituted defender Nim Dorjee, who had already been booked. Marquez believes these substitutions of two key players disrupted his team's control of the game.

“I think that when Borja Herrera left the pitch, we lost control of the game,” he said in the post-match press conference.

“In one substitution, I was wrong. I substituted Nim (Dorjee) because he was on a yellow card. The substitution was wrong—completely wrong—because, in defence, we were a complete disaster (after he was subbed off). And in the middle of the pitch, we lost the control of the game that we had till the moment Borja (Herrera) was on the pitch,” he added.

The Spaniard shared his displeasure with the character of the players tonight as they suffered their third consecutive defeat in the ISL. 

However, the head coach now aims to look forward to the next game which is against Mumbai City FC on February 28.

“The game has finished just now. Now it's very difficult to speak, but I think when you don't have character, it's very difficult. This team doesn't have a character at this moment without Sandesh (Jhingan) and Victor (Rodriguez)," he stated.

"It's a tough defeat (for us). But we are professionals; we need to play in three days in Mumbai and try to avoid this kind of second half (performance like today),” he continued.

FC Goa dominated possession from the start, launching attacks from the outset and putting the Blasters under pressure. However, Kerala Blasters FC increased their attacking intent in the second half, pressing higher up the pitch and ultimately forcing the Gaurs to make mistakes.

Marquez explains what went wrong in the second half and identifies areas for improvement ahead of the next match.

“Today we played well in the first half, especially in the first 25–30 minutes. But when the opponent created one (goal-scoring) chance, the team was very weak at the moment. You can check when NorthEast United FC, Mohun Bagan SG, scored the goal against us. The team doesn't have the capacity to react (on time)," Marquez said.

“We missed a leader on the pitch. We don't have it at this moment. I am the most responsible one because I am the coach. Then three defeats in a row, but this is football. We need to keep going, and we need to go to Mumbai, where they are in a good moment, and try to turn the situation around,” he signed off.