The tactician also revealed that he is delighted with the performance of his players.

NorthEast United and Kerala Blasters extended their winless run in the Indian Super League (ISL) as they shared the spoils in a goalless game on Thursday evening. While one could point out that Kerala Blasters looked like the better team on the pitch, the southerners failed to clinch three points against a resolute NorthEast United defence. Had it not been for Sahal Abdul Samad and Jorge Pereyra Diaz missing a couple of sitters, the result would have been entirely different. Following the draw, Ivan Vukomanovic spoke in the post-match press conference.

Despite the draw, Vukomanovic looked visibly happy regarding his team’s performance. The Serbian-Belgian showed optimism in his approach, while facing questions from the press.

Team’s approach towards set-pieces

The 44-year-old revealed that he was particularly happy with how Kerala Blasters defended against NorthEast United’s set-pieces.

“I’m happy in general (regarding both attacking and defensive set-pieces). I’d say that we were more focused in the case of defensive set-pieces. We were present in numbers, we were compact and did well in those situations,” he began.

“Looking at the defensive statistics from the last season of the ISL, it looked like many goals were created from set-pieces. We’re happy that we didn’t allow something like that today,” Ivan Vukomanovic said.

Foreign centre-back pairing

“I’d rather win 5-3 than win 1-0,” the tactician remarked before the game. That gave an impression that he would take the risk of fielding a foreign-Indian centre-back pairing to deploy overseas recruitments in the attack. However, he did the exact opposite.

Fans were taken by surprise to find both Marko Leskovic and Enes Sipovic in the starting XI prior to kick-off. But then it paid off, with the Yellow Army returning to the dugout with a point and a clean-sheet.

“I think this was the first time that we played two foreign centre-backs together, since we started. Even in our pre-season friendlies, they did not really play the full 90 minutes together,” Vukomanovic admitted.

“Their work today makes me happy. They brought stability to the team and that helps, because you can build further on from there.

“If your team have defensive stability – that is, if your defenders trouble the opposition’s attackers – they will bring back at least a point from the game, which is what happened tonight,” He explained.

Missed chances, mistakes in attack

Needless to say, the fans of the Kochi-based outfit would be slightly disappointed by the missed goalscoring chances. Ivan Vukomanovic, however, wants to look at the brighter side.

“We knew that in this game, we had to dominate – which we did when you look at the chances that we had. We had good chances up-front, to score in both halves,” he said.

The tactician further explained, “On any professional level all around the world, mistakes will happen while playing the game. Today, we had a few of them which shouldn’t have happened really. But then again, these mistakes also help our young players realise why they shouldn’t be repeated. They have to go through that process – meanwhile, we just work hard to improve and make sure that they aren’t repeated in future.”

Vincy Barretto’s debut

Former Gokulam Kerala ace and I-League champion Vincy Barretto made his ISL debut against the Highlanders. The 21-year-old featured on the pitch for 89 minutes, while maintaining a passing accuracy of over 70%. He also created a big chance, took two shots and drew as many as four fouls. With Rahul KP ruled out for over four weeks due to injury, the Goan youngster’s emergence would be a matter of relief for the Yellow Army.

“Of course, you’ll see more of them in future. I say all of them – because Vincy (Barretto) is just one of the many youngsters who have good potential. About Vincy, his is very quick and very difficult to defend against when in form. I think NorthEast United faced some trouble stopping his advances tonight. I am fully confident that not just Vincy, but all of our youngsters will improve by working hard,” Vukomanovic opined.

“I’m happy with all my players and I’m fully confident about their abilities. They’re working hard and we’ll continue with whatever we’re doing, because we still have our objectives ahead of us,” he stated.

Message to fans

Kerala Blasters took home their maiden point of the season on Thursday, but also extended their winless run to two games. On that note, Ivan Vukomanovic was quizzed whether their attacking woes will persist in the upcoming games.

“To all the fans of Kerala Blasters – I am a coach who likes attacking football. I like to attack and attack more. I like to create offensive situations and I want to see my boys make use of those situations to score,” he addressed the fans.

“Even tonight, the players – Sahal and others – who missed their chances have quality, so I want to see them score in future. That’s our objective, they have to improve and to become an important part for both their club and the national team,” he signed off.

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