Kochi, Feb 8 (IANS): Kerala Blasters head coach Ivan Vukomanovic was delighted with not just the performance, but the attitude of his players as they returned to winning ways in the Indian Super League (ISL) with a 2-1 win over Chennaiyin FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium here.
Birthday boy, Abdenasser El Khayati put Chennaiyin FC ahead in the 2nd minute of the game, as he capitalised on a mistake from two Blasters' centre-backs. The Dutchman founf space for himself and took a quick shot that went past Prabsukhan Gill. The home side responded well after the goal and dominated the rest of the first half. The Blasters' scored the equaliser through Adrian Luna in the 38th minute, with the Uruguayan scoring a trademark curler from the edge of the box. Rahul KP produced the winning goal in the 64th minute from a low cross by Luna.
Kerala Blasters maintained their impressive home run, winning seven out of nine home games. Vukomanovic was proud of the comeback and praised his players for their fighting spirit.
"This was not the first time we had fallen behind in the league this season, especially at home. I'm really grateful and happy to see this kind of response from the players," the Serbian was quoted as saying by ISL.
"Even though we conceded the goal in the opening minutes, which was completely unacceptable, we played very well in the first half. One of the best first-half performances we have seen this season," he added.
The head coach was pleased with the performance of his defenders in the latter stages of the game and they managed to hold on to their one-goal lead until the final whistle.
"After we scored the second goal, we knew we have to be more organised. When you defend in the final minutes, it's all about character and a winning mentality. You can't afford to give space to your opponents," he said.
The win put Kerala Blasters four points ahead of FC Goa and ATK Mohun Bagan in third place in the Hero ISL standings. Vukomanovic breathed a huge sigh of relief and believes they are now in a much better position.
"After so many weeks it's a small part of the relief, staying in the third spot with 31 points. We will now go into the final three games with a positive mindset," stated Vukomanovic.
On the other hand, a defeat for Chennaiyin FC put a huge dent in their playoff hopes. With only three matches to play, the Marina Machans are six points behind sixth-placed Odisha FC. But the Blasters' head coach feels that they deserve to be higher on the points table.
"They're a really tough team. They deserve to be higher on the table. They have quality in the team and I wish them good luck for the rest of the season," said the coach.
The Manjappada were in full voice once again and showcased brilliant Tifos and banners all throughout the game. Vukomanovic praised the supporters for their help in their fighting comeback against Chennaiyin FC.
"There are moments in your life when certain people touch you with emotion. This kind of moment stays in your heart till the end of your life. We will do everything to make them (the fans) happy," concluded Vukomanovic.