The Yellow Army ended their 11-game winless run in the ISL on Sunday.

Kerala Blasters registered their maiden win of the Indian Super League (ISL) season on Sunday, when they beat Odisha FC 2-1 at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Vasco, Goa. Alvaro Vazquez and Prasanth Karuthadathkuni scored for Ivan Vukomanovic and co, while Nikhil Raj netted a late consolation strike for Odisha FC.

The three points helped the Yellow Army climb to sixth spot on the standings. They now have five points from four matches, just one point shy of the play-off spots. The Juggernauts, meanwhile, remain at third place, with six points from three games.

After the entertaining clash, Vukomanovic spoke to the press in the post-match press conference, on behalf of Kerala Blasters. He stated that the Kochi-based outfit deserved to win, based on the level of football that they have played so far this season. “This is a huge moment,” he began, when asked about what the victory means for kerala Blasters.

“Even in the first three games, we played good football. We wanted to explore different styles, get in shape, press high and play offensively – like we did against ATK Mohun Bagan. Later, we tried to correct certain defensive aspects of our gameplay and obtained a clean sheet against NorthEast United. We could’ve played a 0-0 match against Bengaluru FC as well,” he opined.

Thoughts on Odisha FC

The 44-year-old also opened up on his thoughts on Odisha FC. “About today, we knew well before the match that we were going to play against a strong team. Odisha FC are a good side who can control a game and pass the ball well. We were right to assume that there would be some tough moments during the clash. During our preparation, we wanted to try something different from our last game. We wanted to press them high, and I think it paid off,” Vukomanovic said.

“Overall, we deserved to win this game and we’re happy with the result. But it’s also important that we stay humble and modest. We have to continue building up, because we’re a young team with young players and there’s plenty of room for improvement. We have to continue working hard to become better,” he added.

Challenging campaign?

When asked about how tough their games so far have been, the Serbian-Belgian said, “We have to be honest to ourselves. Every game is going to be tough and we have to deal with it. During our preparations, we try to look at how our opponents line up. We pay attention to their weak points, to prepare accordingly. That’s why we looked different today, when compared to the same team last week against Bengaluru FC,” the tactician asserted.

“We’d like to prove to everyone that we’re a tough team to beat. Tonight, we wanted to finish with a clean sheet,” he remarked.

Albino Gomes’ injury

In the 76th minute of their match against Odisha FC, goalkeeper Albino Gomes was substituted following a discomfort. He went down immediately after taking a goal kick and looked to be in some serious pain.

“I still don’t know (about the extent of Albino’s injury) as I haven’t been to the dressing room yet. I have to check with the medical team and ask for their assessment. For now, I hope it’s nothing bad. I feel sorry for him. Tonight, when we return to the hotel, the first thing that we’ll do is examine his injury and try to determine when he’ll return (to play),” Ivan Vukomanovic revealed.

Alvaro Vazquez and the Spanish quality

Vazquez, Kerala Blasters’ most expensive signing of the season, opened his ISL goalscoring account with a solid strike on Sunday. Adrian Luna played a defence-splitting forward pass to the Spaniard, who curved his run, got into a one-versus-one situation with the goalkeeper, rounded him off and calmly slotted the ball into the empty net.

The goal spoke volumes of the former Espanyol striker, and Ivan Vukomanovic agreed that Spanish footballers are among the best in the world.

“The fact that Spanish footballers are among the most-educated in terms of the game, make them some of the best players in the world. Right from a young age, they are prepared to face strong oppositions, including senior players. The various levels of the Spanish football league system are all tough by nature. When you evaluate and play several games in these leagues, you become strong – and that’s why they make a difference when they come here to India,” he quipped.

“We’re happy to have a player like Alvaro Vazquez with us,” the Kerala Blasters head coach concluded.

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