KOCHI: Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic mentioned he wants his club to be among the best in the league after their 1-0 win against Odisha FC in the nail-biting match in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi, on Monday.
It was a match of two halves, while Odisha FC dominated the first half, the home side came with the solitary goal in the 86th Minute, once they gained the upper hand in the second half of the match. Vukomanovic was expecting this fixture to be a single-goal match and pleased with the way the Blasters bounced back in the second half and got the all-important three points.
"We knew before the game that it would not go beyond a goal. In the end, we are pleased with three points because this is the most difficult part of the season - December and the first half of January - where many teams in ISL will drop points, lose games, lose the grip of the competition and actually we want to stay among the best. We want to stay on top and be there. We want to be in the playoffs," said the coach after the match as quoted by an ISL press release.
"We knew that today even if it (the game) was ugly (it did not matter) because football is not only about how we call playing a champagne, beautiful football - it is about fighting, showing character and that was the case tonight. I am very happy the way the boys responded in the second half, creating chances and scoring that one goal made the difference," added the 45-year-old head coach.
Vukomanovic took the bold decision of taking off Sahal Abdul Samad and Rahul KP and putting on youngsters Bryce Miranda and Nihal Sudheesh. It yielded a good result for the home side as Miranda provided the assist for the winning goal while Sudeesh also caused the Odisha FC defence a lot of problems. The KBFC gaffer explained the decision was both tactical and forced and appreciated the work put on by his players in the starting eleven.
"It was really hot, humid, and difficult to play today and then we saw in the second half that our opponent was going a little bit down with the pace, with the freshness. So we decided to put some fresh legs, quick players, with pace who can destroy a defence line by running in, getting the ball in the space and creating chances and scoring goals," he said.
"When we got these yellow cards also in the first half, we wanted to control this thing in the second half but they were also good today. It was just a kind of coaching choice. But giving these minutes for substitutes are also very important for their further development and career for the next year. Our substitute players from the bench and fresh legs (helped). They brought something extra in and I think that made a difference." he added.
The all-important goal was scored by Sandeep Singh, who scored his first ISL goal. The head coach praised the situational awareness of his defender and also touched upon the importance of having a big squad and giving more chances to the youngsters in the upcoming matches.
"I am very pleased as a coach of Kerala Blasters FC to have a squad of 20-plus players. We also have many young players coming in and knocking on the door of the first squad. We are adjusting them to our training program and process. More and more, We will see some of these youngsters coming to our first squad," he said.
With this win, Kerala Blasters FC reached the third spot and just five points away from the table toppers Mumbai City FC. Vukomanovic thinks there are many things which differentiate KBFC from the league toppers and other teams who fight for playoffs.
"Many things. This kind of consistency and the possibility of being more experienced in the games is (one), it not only about the players' quality but also the technical side too on how you will manage these situations when it comes closer to the end about going into playoffs and playing important matches.
As a club we have the vision that every year, we have some new young players and they are having their first experience playing in front of the fans and playing in ISL. So, actually when you work on a longer-term with consistency with the right process. Right vision, you can hope to be there." concluded Vukomanovic.