INDIAN FOOTBALL

Ivan Vukomanovic says of Vibin Mohanan, a plus on a disappointing night for Kerala Blasters

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Kerala Blasters were defeated 1-0 by Hyderabad FC in their last ISL 2022-23 league-stage encounter on Sunday at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi (February 26).

Borja Gonzalez scored in the first half to give the Nizams the victory in Kochi. The outcome, however, was not detrimental to the Yellow Army because they had already secured fifth place and the match was basically a dead rubber.

Despite treading a suspended tightrope, Kerala Blasters elected to start Ivan Kaliuzhnyi. After receiving his seventh yellow card of the season, the Ukrainian will now miss the team’s ISL playoff knockout game against Bengaluru FC.

When asked why he started Kaliuzhnyi, Kerala Blasters head coach Ivan Vukomanovic said,

“(We began Kaliuzhnyi) because we wanted him to play this game and we had clear communication with him to be careful and not do anything silly.”

He didn’t even see the player behind him throughout that duel (for which he was booked). So, again, in my opinion, the judgement of the referees, it was not even a yellow card.

Ivan Vukomanovic coach of Kerala Blasters

“But then you have 10 people jumping on you, influencing you, yelling at you… These types of things with the officials annoy us all throughout the season, not just us today or just that decision.”

Vukomanovic went on to convey his displeasure with the game’s refereeing standards. He remarked,

“We watched several judgements such as (that). As a referee, you must know and observe that he did not do it on purpose in those scenario. He didn’t even notice the other player. To punish him in this manner is cruel.”

Finally, (Marko) Leskovic, with that sort of yellow card, it’s best not to even discuss the officials’ judgements.

“With all due respect, that was not the case this season, but we have to live with it, we have to accept those things.”

Thoughts on Kerala Blasters

The Serbian strategist also said that he had warned Kaliuzhnyi to be wary: “Furthermore, we spoke yesterday and today with Kaliuzhnyi that he needed to take care of that (the suspension tightrope), but he’s now suspended. We must do without him. We have a sufficient number of players. We’ll find someone to fill the midfield position.”

Vukomanovic promptly shifted his focus to Vibin Mohanan, who began his debut ISL match for Kerala Blasters that evening. The midfielder was one of the only bright spots for the home team throughout the game.

“Tonight, I’m satisfied with the performance of little Vibin,” the coach stated, heaping praise on the kid. He demonstrated his worth. “I believe that as he plays more games, he will improve.” There’s a lot of promise not just for Kerala Blasters, but also for Indian football, since that sort of good technical midfielder is hard to come by in India, so we’re pleased.”

Blasters journey to top

“We have enough guys (who can play in centre midfield) like Danish (Farooq), Ayush (Adhikar), and (Adrian) Luna. We’ll figure it out. In the following game, we’ll attempt to be stronger in Bengaluru.”

When asked whether there were any other positives to take away from the game, the 45-year-old responded, “Let’s say that we tried to be the dominating side, that we wanted to attempt to play football, that we wanted to create something because we know that the spectators like to watch it.” We thought it would be a one-goal game again because when you face Hyderabad FC, who I believe have surrendered the fewest goals this season, you know you’re up against a difficult side with a tough organisation that plays hard football.”

KBFC

He went on to say:

“I believe we were fine until the last third, but we lost that last pass, that last lucidity of those players who can produce that final moment of magic with a fantastic pass. It was something we missed tonight.” Again, Hyderabad FC are a very excellent squad; they are second in the table for good cause, and they are a tough side. We lost tonight, and now we must prepare for (the playoff against Bengaluru FC on Friday).”

Vukomanovic also asked Kerala Blasters supporters to swarm Kanteerava Stadium when the team plays Bengaluru FC in the playoffs: “We hoped to end well, but that wasn’t the case. Again, the fans were fantastic; many thanks to them since they are our driving force. Hoping they come in large numbers to Bengaluru so we feel at home, as was the case the last time.”

Ivan Vukomanovic’s statement

In their loss to Hyderabad FC, the hosts failed to create scoring chances. When asked what his objectives are for the crucial encounter against Bengaluru FC, Vukomanovic answered,

“Of course, to try to create chances and score goals, because you know when you face these sorts of teams like Hyderabad FC, Bengaluru FC, they’re highly organised.”

When you play in front of your home fans, you naturally want to be dominating, play football, and attempt to create. If you play against a good team and miss that last touch or that last moment of clarity that the players must create in the final third, you will have difficulty creating a chance

“We were also slow in coming from behind, taking too many touches instead of passing the ball quickly and putting pace on the ball. Of course, if your opponents allow it, you may do all of these things.”

Vukomanovic also stated that the Kerala Blasters would adopt a more measured approach against Simon Grayson’s team:

“Tonight, Hyderabad FC performed admirably. We were attempting to press and push. That’s the game, they were trying to get us on the counter.”

“Of course, we consider those things when we travel to Bengaluru. Perhaps we’ll organise and just wait behind, hoping for counter-attacks. We’ll see what happens.”

Ivan Vukomanovic

“You’re no longer a talent,”

Vukomanovic said of Kerala Blasters player Sahal Abdul Samad’s form.

Kerala Blasters forward Sahal Abdul Samad, who has recently battled with form, seemed to be without confidence against Hyderabad FC. Vukomanovic said when asked what was wrong with the player:

“It’s a personal preference. When you’re 25-26 years old, you’re no longer a talent; you’re a senior player. If I’m not mistaken, he has played in over 100 games in this league, so he has experience and everything.”

“Getting out of that zone is a personal choice (of poor form and confidence). It’s a personal thing, playing games, demonstrating quality, and building confidence. We, as coaches, constantly encourage every player by providing them playing time, talking to them in training sessions, and doing everything else.”

Vukomanovic emphasised the importance of players like Sahal stepping up for his club at the conclusion of the season:

“When it comes to these kind of circumstances, playing crucial games when the stakes are high, the players must step up, show talent, and personality. It is the distinction at the greatest level.”

It was different seeing his performances last year since they were within the bubble. As the Kerala Blasters prepare for the playoffs, Vukomanovic shared the team’s preparations for the following days.

Ivan has a new strategy

He stated:

“The majority of the players will rest tomorrow. Eventually we’ll have to organise since there isn’t a single training site in a huge city like Bengaluru where you can go and practise.” As a result, we must plan our training sessions here. We travelled to Bengaluru the last time we played with the hopes of getting a training pitch, but that didn’t happen. We couldn’t even get there, so we skipped that training.”

He went on to say:

“Now that we know we won’t have a football surface to train on in Bengaluru, we’ll plan our programmes here (beginning tomorrow) to recuperate. Some players may practise a little more tomorrow and then just recharge since once the playoffs begin, there will be no time to train.”

Vukomanovic came to the following conclusion:

“It’s just games, recuperation, and refreshing… games, recuperation, and refreshing. Several players will most likely suffer as a result of this. That is the fact; that is the format of this league, and you must accept it.” There is nothing you can create. Just mix and match to watch how certain gamers react and make the most of it. That’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Kerala Blasters will meet Bengaluru FC in an ISL playoff match on Friday at Kanteerava (March 3).

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