Alvaro Vazquez and Jorge Pereyra Diaz scored in the 2-1 victory over NorthEast United.

Kerala Blasters climbed to second in the Indian Super League 2021-22 points table following their 2-1 win over NorthEast United. Jorge Pereyra Diaz opened the scoring for Ivan Vukomanovic’s side before Alvaro Vazquez sealed all three points with a stunning long ranger late in the match. Mohamed Irshad scored for NorthEast United in stoppage time, but it was a mere consolation. The defeat keeps the Highlanders at the bottom of the pile.

Ivan Vukomanovic was pleased with his boys’ attitude in the second half after a lustreless first half. Here is what the Kerala Blasters manager said at the pre-match press conference:

Kerala Blasters 2-1 NorthEast United Match Highlights

On team’s performance

Kerala Blasters played some good football . When asked if he was pleased with the performance, the tactician asserted, “I must admit that I am really pleased because we knew that this will be the most difficult game of the season. When you are facing an opponent who actually has nothing to lose. From our side, where you are facing this moment where you need to win – you must win. You must get those points, specially with all the things that have happened in the last period, with COVID and isolation.

“As a coach, I am very pleased because in difficult circumstances and specially in this difficult moment, fighting for top of the table we knew we had to overcome. We have to continue working hard, even if now we will have less time with many games. But again, we must be content tonight. We must relax, recharge, recover and get ready for the next game,” Vukomanovic added.

Character of the team

Kerala Blasters were leading 1-0 when Ayush Adhikari was sent off, after receiving his second yellow card on the night. However, even with a numerical disadvantage, the Blasters doubled their lead in the 81st minute, courtesy an Alvaro Vazquez stunner.

When asked if scoring another goal after being a man down speaks a lot about the character of the team, Ivan Vukomanovic mentioned, “These kind of games, you don’t have to show – top quality that you are a magician, the quality that you can play nice football. Because sometimes, in these types of games you have to win with mentality, character, fight, commitment to your team and teammates. As a coach, that makes me really happy.”  

He continued, “But yet again, scoring the second goal in that manner. Of course, it was a pleasure to see the top quality. Let’s say in that moment, it was kind of relief, kind of a relaxing moment. But then, we had to fight till the end. It was hard and difficult. We will take rest a little bit and try to prepare for the next games.”

On Ayush Adhikari

Ayush Adhikari got a start against the Highlanders, his second start this season. He looked impressive in the first half. However, he received two yellow cards in the second, for his tackles on Marcelinho and Hernan Santana and was sent off.

The coach spoke about the player, saying, “For my side it doesn’t matter. Ayush is a great person and a great player, with huge potential to improve even more. As a young player, he must understand in these kind of circumstances and in these moments, when he gets a chance, he must perform, he must get to the pitch. I am very happy with his performance.

“He must continue working hard. I am sorry for him that he will be suspended for the next game. That’s football. These things happen. These kind of things we call experience. So, maybe in the next games in the future, he will not repeat those kind of movements. That’s how we become better. That’s how we improve as a player and as a person.”

Would have liked to keep clean-sheet?

Kerala Blasters were defensively solid throughout the game, leaving goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Gill with little to do. Perhaps, this was a fruitful opportunity for the team to earn a clean-sheet. But Mohamed Irshhad’s late strike denied them Gill a fifth clean-sheet this season.

“Yes. I must be honest and say I was not pleased with the goal we conceded at the end,” said Ivan Vukomanovic. “It is the second time this happened. We had a same situation in the first part of the season against Odisha FC, where we had a 2-0 lead and then we conceded a goal at the very last minute.

“Of course, it is always better when you have a clean-sheet because I think so far, we are the team who has the most clean-sheets in the league. We want to continue building up because if we are defensively strong, then we can always make difference in front,” he concluded.

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