Kerala Blasters moved to fourth place after beating the defending champions.

Kerala Blasters put one foot in the playoffs after defeating defending champions Mumbai City FC 3-1 courtesy of goals from Sahal Abdul Samad and Alvaro Vazquez. The victory took Ivan Vukomanovic’s men to fourth place in the points table with one game remaining. They also have a two-point lead over the Islanders and will automatically advance into the semis if Mumbai City fail to beat Hyderabad FC in their final game.

If Des Buckingham’s side win their final game, all Kerala Blasters will need is a point against FC Goa to pip the title-holders to the fourth and final playoffs spot in ISL 2021-22. Delighted with the win, coach Ivan Vukomanovic addressed the media post the match and shared his thoughts.

Top teams respond to the situation

Kerala Blasters and Mumbai City started their seasons very well. The two teams were on top of the table at some points of the season. However, both suffered from a lack of form and had inconsistent results. But the good teams respond when the situation needs them to, and Ivan Vukomanovic believes his side did when they needed them to the most.

“This is the good side of top teams that you perform when you need to be on top. And I think today we knew we were playing against a very strong team with many good individual players. We knew from the very beginning that if we go out and play with high pressure, we can create something,” he quipped.

Sahal Abdul Samad’s progression this season

Sahal has scored five goals in the season. However, the Indian international didn’t score after going on a scoring spree early in the season. Ivan Vukomanovic is happy that he scored when it mattered the most, and his single goal counts three times for his coach.

“Salah is a guy who has a big progression march as a football player. These kinds of things you’ve to unlock at some part of your career. And these boys, when they are growing up, these kinds of things they start showing them. I’m happy that he keeps scoring. He has already five goals in the season. He’s the guy who can improve, even more, I think. Not only him, we have one of the youngest squads in ISL, I think. So many of those boys who have never played in the ISL are experiencing it now, and I’m happy for them. We’re proud of them, and they’re improving a lot,” the Kerala Blasters tactician expressed.

Alvaro Vazquez’s brace

Alvaro Vazquez scored a brace in the game. The Kerala Blasters forward scored the first of his two goals from a penalty after winning it himself. However, his second goal came through a mistake by Mohammad Nawaz. The young goalkeeper mishandled the ball, and Vazquez had an open net to score the second. But Ivan Vukomanovic doesn’t believe that his forward was lucky, and he explained why he thinks so.

“Sometimes they say that the easiest of goals are the toughest to score. Because in some moments you don’t expect these things to happen. So he reacted very well. We are very happy that he was there. Because we were saying before the game in the preparation that we always have to continue pressing the goalkeeper. These lucky moments, come in football like a prize for doing things correctly. And then everybody says that he was lucky. But the luck – you’ve to deserve it,” the Serbian head coach explained.

Favourites to make the playoffs

Ivan Vukomanovic’s men need a point from their final game against FC Goa to ensure a place in the playoffs. The Serbian took some time to reminisce the hard work his team has put in throughout the season to make it happen.

“We as a team are coming from far away after the last five years of disappointment. Even this season, we are the team with a full building up process with a young team. Nobody gave us anything. We had to fight for every point. And the last game will be the same. We will have to fight in the last game to achieve the things that we want to achieve,” the 44-year-old head coach remarked.

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