The Blasters egded Jamshedpur FC on aggregate after a two-legged thriller.

Kerala Blasters booked their place in the finals of the eighth edition of the Indian Super League. Ivan Vukomanovic and his men defeated Owen Coyle’s Jamshedpur FC 2-1 on aggregate to advance. The first leg’s goalscorer Sahal Abdul Samad missed the game for the Blasters, as he suffered a muscle injury in training. Adrian Luna opened the scoring for Ivan Vukomanovic’s side, whereas Pronay Halder replied for the Men of Steel.

Kerala Blasters’ head coach Ivan Vukomanovic met the media to discuss the win and the surprise exclusion of Sahal Abdul Samad.

Kerala Blasters 1-1 Jamshedpur FC post-match press conference

Potential in team

Vukomanovic has never shied away from telling how much potential he always saw in his team. He has asserted more than once that his team have some of the best youngsters and some capable, experienced names in his squad. So, to reach the final is no surprise for the Serbian.

“It’s been a great achievement for the club and the fans, who were waiting for so long to be here where we are standing. We achieved something great and we all should be happy. These boys were fighting so well throughout the season. Since we started last year in August, we knew that there was potential and quality to end up top of the table,” the 44-year-old reaffirmed.

Sahal had some discomfort

Sahal Abdul Samad struggled during the training session on Monday. Ivan Vukomanovic didn’t want to risk his Indian midfielder and started Nishu Kumar in the right midfielder position.

When asked about the exclusion of Sahal, Vukomanovic replied, “Yesterday during the training, he felt some discomfort in his muscle. We didn’t want to take any risks because risking him in this kind of game, this kind of injury could provoke an even more difficult situation and could put him out of the pitch for a long period. So, we decided to not allow him to play so that we can take care of him. I’ll never sacrifice anyone if there’s any discomfort because we have enough players.”

Difference between playing knockout & league game

Jamshedpur FC and Kerala Blasters had faced each other four times before the knockouts this season. Kerala lost two games, while the other two resulted in a draw. Ivan Vukomanovic explained how playing in a knockout game is different from playing in a league game.

“There is something different when you are fighting for points and when you are playing in the knockouts. When you’ve to play 180 minutes and extra-time, you’ve to take many things into consideration. You’ve to do many things different where you’re fighting in the 90 minutes for the points. So, we had to manage two games in a row against one of the best teams in the league. They were consistent during the regular part of the season,” Ivan Vukomanovic explained.

Refereeing decisions have a say

Vukomanovic hasn’t been happy with the refereeing standards in the league. He has been left disappointed several times because of some decisions of the referees. The Kerala Blasters’ head coach was booked in the second leg of the semi-finals after getting into a heated argument with the referee.

“I’m also grateful that we have some top officials in the league who can always provide some different and sometimes incredible decisions. Because of these decisions, the opponents (Jamshedpur FC) were put back into the game. We had to fight till the end,” the Serbian tactician quipped.

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