The southerners’ erratic campaign continued as the Gaurs solidified their place in the top four.

Kerala Blasters FC succumbed to a 2 – 1 setback at the hands of FC Goa in Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday. In a match where the hosts dominated for large phases, Ferran Corominas and Edu Bedia struck on either side of a CK Vineeth equaliser to bag all three points and hand Kerala their second consecutive defeat under the management of David James.

The Englishman spoke to the media in the post-match press conference and lauded his team for their effort, while also expressing his bemusement at being denied a penalty which he believed ultimately changed the contest.

“I thought the team did very well tonight. It’s difficult when you get into a one-against-one position in the box, the player goes around, gets brought down, and it’s waved on. It’ a clear penalty, especially in a game where we had started to dominate. Very frustrating for the players because of the effort they put in. And frustrating for everyone involved for Kerala, because that ought to be a game we would win,” James said.

He further added, “That one decision (the penalty) changed the game. Unfortunately, that is football; we have to get on with it. Once again, the players have put in a superb effort. But ultimately, it’s Goa who go away with three points. And now it’s pretty much win every game going forward. It is going to be a tough challenge, but we have players who are ready to do that.”

The 47-year-old also highlighted captain Sandesh Jhingan’s performance, and praised his efforts, seeing that he continued playing after picking up a niggle in the second half. “What Sandesh has done for me has been superb,” James stated.

“He’s really conducted himself well, in fact he’s improved in certain areas of his game which I’m delighted with. And I thought today he was big, very big. That’s what I want from my captain. He turned his ankle in the second half and still continued, put in crosses which could have got us a draw in a situation we could have been leading.”

The former Liverpool custodian went on to praise the Gaurs for their performance but rued the fact that they conceded the winner from a set-piece. “We are talking about a Goa side who will go top of the league if they win their games in hand,” James said. “They have been the best team in this league so far.”

They are a thoroughly decent side. And as I said, at one point a decision goes against us, and we would have been in the league had that gone for us… Disappointed that it’s our first corner from which we have conceded this season. So, defensively from set plays we have been very good up until that second goal.”

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Addressing the media at the post-match press conference was Goa’s head coach Sergio Lobera, and he lauded his side as a whole for the win.

“I think for a game like today’s, you can’t pick out one particular zone for the win,” the Spaniard said. “You need to be very good as a team across all aspects. There were moments where we tactically read the game well. It was a very complicated game, and in particular moments in the game it was a balanced tie. But I think we read the game well from a tactical point of view and got three very important points.”

The 41-year-old highlighted the importance of set-pieces in tight matches. “In games like these where things are particularly tight, set pieces are very important and we have been practising our set pieces as well,” Lobera revealed. “Set pieces can make all the difference in the world. And today you can see, it had an impact on the game.”

Lobera also commented on his side’s style of play. “We are loyal to our style of play,” he stated. “We know that the style of play we have adopted carries risks. But I’m very proud of my players and the personality they have shown to carry out that style of play.”

He further explained, “We tried to play out from the back, and sometimes you are bound to see errors. But, normally we have much more of a success rate than the amount of errors that we commit. And today, playing from the back meant that the opposition got tired out in attack. This is what you noticed in the second half, and you could see that they were tired.”