Kerala Blasters edged past Jamshedpur FC by virtue of a solitary goal from Sahal in the 38th minute in the last game. As things stand, a draw in the semi-final second leg will be enough for the Kerala-based team to qualify for the final. The Blasters’ though cannot be content with the one-goal lead, they need to push for extending the lead and rest any chances of a resurgence from Jamshedpur FC. KBFC have won three, lost once, and drawn the remaining of their last five matches this season.
The Men of Steel have already clinched the League Winners’ Shield and are eyeing a double by winning the ISL championship as well. A narrow deficit won’t be too big a factor given the quality of players they have at their disposal. It was a few days back that Jamshedpur FC created an ISL record, having won seven games in a row. However, their streak was derailed by a spirited Kerala Blasters FC in the first leg of the first semi-final as they succumbed to a solitary goal by Sahal Abdul Samad.
Kerala Blasters FC head coach Ivan Vukomanovic and defender Marko Leskovic addressed the media during the pre-match press conference ahead of their semi-finals second leg game against Jamshedpur FC on Tuesday at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Vasco, Goa.
Although Kerala Blasters have a one-goal lead in the tie, it will be a difficult second leg against the Men of Steel. Ivan spoke about the team’s approach against Jamshedpur FC tomorrow.
“Well, we don’t even look anymore at the last game. Even that result of 1-0 doesn’t give us any guarantee or security for tomorrow’s game. The second leg is a new game and we have to play with full concentration and focus on the things that we want to achieve and show on the pitch. We have already forgotten about the last game. We don’t even think about that tomorrow because we will be playing as if the scores are the same for both teams.
“We will be approaching it like we are playing the finals and that’s how we approached every game since we started this competition. We don’t expect anybody to help us at this stage by giving away free fouls. It will be a physical fight and it will be even harder and more difficult than the last game. We are enjoying our last week in Goa and let’s play a game and we’ll see what’s the outcome later on.”
After the first leg, Jamshedpur FC’s head coach had compared the Blasters’ post-match celebrations with winning the world cup. Ivan expressed his views on that.
“Yes but actually we celebrated every game like that because every game is a fight for us. We are underdogs and not the favorites to win the ISL. Of course, seeing the fact that we have won against the team who had seven victories in a row and who won the league shield is a good achievement for us. So every game and every victory we will celebrate like that because we know that nothing that we achieve was offered or given to us just like that. We have had to fight for that and when you fight for those things you achieve victories. I think we needed to celebrate even though it was only the first leg. So even tomorrow we know that our opponents are favorites and it will be a solid game.
“It will be even a stronger fight it will be even more physical, it will be even more pressure, especially on referees. What I find really odd is that and I’m really sorry that the referees will decide the outcome of the next games. It’s really bad for football in India because, with so many mistakes the referees make, it decides the winners of the game. It’s what makes us a little bit frustrated and gives us a bad feeling before the games. So tomorrow it will be again a new fight and a physical and ugly game, but anyway we’ll be ready for that, and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Ivan shed light on the team’s injury updates ahead of the crucial game against Jamshedpur FC.
“Everybody is fit and available for tomorrow’s game except Denechandra Meitei.”
Ivan spoke on Kerala Blasters FC fans buying the most number of the tickets for the final game. Ivan shared his thoughts on that.
“Well, it gives us also one kind of extra motivation to try to achieve the final. Of course, it’s now uh you know the moment where you want to act intelligently. Finally, when we’re playing in the knockout phase we must be clever on how to approach and achieve the results in both games. We have a great opportunity to qualify for the final. We will be very grateful to see that yellow sea in the stadium in case we make it to the final. So tomorrow, of course, we’ll do our best because having that kind of support and energy from the fans gives us extra motivation, especially for tomorrow, so it’s a great feeling and joyful to see all these videos from Kochi and Kerala after the first game. But there is one more game we have to be humble and concentrate on our game tomorrow.”
Ivan spoke about the message he will have for his players ahead of the semi-final second leg.
“In this kind of game it’s a pleasure as a football player, you find yourself privileged to be in that kind of situation, playing for the finals, playing for the qualification, and playing for the high stakes. And again, I was mentioning that many times when you start playing football, you dream about those moments, you dream about these games and you work so hard. Every boy is working so hard to achieve. And it must be a pleasure. Of course, being concentrated, being humble, being focused on your game, being focused on the things that you have to do, to perform on the pitch, these kinds of things are important too.
“Our message will be like that, with certain things that we want to try on the pitch tomorrow with certain movements, and all these things, like the small parts of preparation for one big puzzle that you want to complete. So tomorrow it will be a team talk with the motivation that we are doing it for ourselves. We deserve to be here, where we are standing now. And many people who are happy with us, deserve to be happy. It goes to all the fans and everybody who are supporting us this season and the previous season as well, they all deserve to see the team, where we are standing now and hopefully we can also reach the final, which is our objective.”
Below are the quotes of defender Marko Leskovic who was also present during the press conference.
Leskovic spoke about his partnership with Hormipam and also his opinion on the youngster.
“Talking about my partnership with him, together we are very solid at defense and kept many clean sheets. We are very well organized, and we fight for every ball and we try to give our best in every game that we play. We were disciplined and respected each other throughout the season, and this is one of the reasons why we are here.”
“Of course, he plays very well. For me, he is a player who shows a lot of quality. He works very hard in every training and all the games, he gives his best in everything. He is a very good player and he deserves the national team call-up. It’s a big pleasure playing with him.”
Marko shared his thoughts about the Indian center backs from when he signed for Kerala Blasters and his feeling about them now.
“When I signed I didn’t know too much about them. But when I come here and when I see how these players are physically and mentally strong and how these players train everyday heavy training I was surprised. I see that we have all the quality and potential.”
Leskovic spoke about his preparations for a difficult game against Jamshedpur FC tomorrow.
“I expect the same game as last time. It will have a lot of aggression, fights but we like this game and we are ready for this we fight all season. We have a group of players who are mentally very strong and who give everything for the team. When you have a team like this it’s enjoyable to play big games with big pressure.”
Leskovic spoke about his experience of playing in the ISL and India so far.
“I have had a lot of positive experiences here. and I’m very happy that we are still in the competition and fighting for a place in the final. We have a good season and I’m happy to be a small part of the big Kerala Blasters family.”
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