We're happy because it's about collecting points: Kerala Blasters FC's Vukomanovic

Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic was extremely happy as his side won their fifth game in a row after beating Bengaluru FC in the latest fixture of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Kochi, on Sunday.

The Blues opened the scoring from the penalty spot, while the hosts had goals from Marko Leskovic, Dimitrios Diamantakos, and Apostolos Giannou to ensure a 3-2 victory for the Tuskers. Javier Hernandez reduced Bengaluru FC's deficit in the dying stages, but the Blues could not avoid a defeat.

Speaking at the post-match press conference, Vukomanovic spoke highly of how the players were concentrated and organised to bring in and emulate things practised during the training session from the week gone by. He also pointed out the importance of trying to improve on mistakes and learning new things to get positive results.

The Serbian also stressed bringing in new strategies for every opponent and stated is always keen to focus on the strong and weak points of his team. Vukomanovic also admired the support of his fans despite the weather conditions and thanked them for their support. 

Here are the excerpts from Ivan Vukomanovic’s press conference:

It was a highly intense game. Are you satisfied with the result?

Yes. When you see how things are to both the teams, you always want to play good games and win those games. We won our fifth game in a row, and like I mentioned, this period is where you have to be concentrated, organised and collecting points. Otherwise, you drop your position in the table and lose confidence, later, you start struggling to get those points if you want to reach the playoffs.

Tonight it was important for us to win the three points, we wanted to stay among the top teams in the points table. We knew it would be a very difficult game, and Bengaluru FC do not deserve to be where they are now. They are a great team with good players, and many of them can decide the game on their own. Against such teams, we have to be well organised, prepared to run and defend and even in the first half, we wanted to press them.

I am happy with the things that we were practising and as a coach, it makes you happy when you see the things being emulated from the training session. Speaking about the second goal, that was the case because in the second half they changed the formation and we decided to drop down a bit to defend more, stay focused, and stay compact, not allowing them to go between the lines even if it was difficult. The boys were good as we managed to score the third goal with fresh legs from Apostolos Giannou. I am very happy for him as he is coming after a tough period. In the end, winning three points was important.

We are very happy for our fans who came to support us and happy for our owners because we know the win against Bengaluru FC means a lot to them.

You went a goal down in the first half. How did you manage to condition your players to keep the focus? They seemed very inspired, even after trailing.

We have mutual respect, and the players know football is physically demanding and exhausting. Sometimes, we have to be honest and say that in this league, we have to fight for every point and in every game because we cannot afford to be casual and relaxed.

In this league, anyone can beat anybody, and even after such situations (the penalty), you have to be mentally strong to continue working on the things that you want to show, the strength and physical power we have.

It was exhausting in tonight’s weather, the players had to run and fight a lot, and I am really proud of the boys for how they managed to change things. In the end, we're happy because it is about collecting points.

What one aspect do you think your side needs to improve on?

There are many things, as in this league there are many teams and coaches who are doing a great job. The fact that many times we have to deal with individual mistakes and it comes to a moment and a second where during the practice session you are practising certain options and how the boys can solve those problems during the game. When it happens during the game, it is completely up to them. What we call "decision making" and what I have witnessed very often is that there are many games with individual mistakes that result in goals. If, as a team, you can reduce those mistakes and stay focused to not allow the opponent to explore those mistakes, you can get good results.

As with any other team, we have to be very focused, and improve those things to learn from our mistakes, because very often these mistakes happen in the early career of the players. Making mistakes is part of the game, it means that we analyse them and hope that they do not happen the next time. This is a learning process, and as a player, I was the same. This is the way of improvement.

Tonight Kerala Blasters FC had a possession of 49% to Bengaluru FC’s 51%. Was that a different strategy to play against tonight’s opponent?

Yes, and if you remember, even against FC Goa, our possession was close to 39-40% and yet we managed to score three goals.

As a coach, when you recognise certain qualities in a dressing room, you sit down and think about the strategy and how you want to approach the next game. Bengaluru FC are not the same as FC Goa or Jamshedpur FC, so every time we have to manage those things considering your approach, character, and mental side.

In the second half, it was about improvising and modifying things—how to close down the opponent and not allow them to create chances. In the next game, it will again be different because I always like to see strong and weak points.

Two more matches remain before the end of the calendar year. Is it a dream to end it with 24 points and almost a guarantee of qualifying for the playoffs?

We always dream, and if you do not have a dream, then you have to know your place. I am happy for the fans, and big thanks to them, as we have won our fifth game in a row, so it shows the positivity and the way we can continue further.

With two more games, it is about finding strategies and how you want to play against them. These are the things we have to go through, and actually, it is part of the season. We have to do that, so let us hope for the best as we will be prepared.

How do you think the influence of the fans was on tonight’s game?

It was huge, everyone who arrived in the stands played a huge part. The boys appreciated it a lot, and they enjoyed playing in front of those fans. It was an enormous pleasure to play for those guys because this gives us hope and power to perform on the pitch. The boys showed quality and fought for every ball because they knew that our strategy was also to fight for the club and the supporters because they deserved every bit of it.

The emotions after the game and win are priceless, and big thanks to all of them.

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