After countless number of players, managers, and styles, the club finally seem headed in the right direction with Serbian tactician Vukomanovic at the helm. So, what has changed at the Kochi-based outfit?
“You can see the quality of players is not very different. What is different is that under Vukomanovic, it is not about who you play, but how you play them,” said Kerala’s Santosh Trophy-winning coach Satheevan Balan.
“He is someone who knows how to use his players. An example is Sahal Abdul Samad, a heavily-gifted player who was nowhere near his best recently. But Vukomanovic has come in, studied him and got the best out of him consistently,” said Balan.
Consistency has been the key for Blasters. After the 2-4 defeat to ATK Mohun Bagan in the season opener, even ardent fans expected them to implode like previous seasons. Instead, the club are now on a nine-match unbeaten run — their longest in ISL history.
“The players are giving their 100 percent and the coach deserves all the praise. I am impressed by the quality of our foreign players. Look at how Alvaro Vazquez scored Sunday’s winner out of just a half chance,” said former India international IM Vijayan.
With a mean backline marshalled by Marko Leskovic and ably protected by Jeakson Singh and Puitea from the midfield, Blasters have conceded just 10 goals – joint best with Hyderabad.
Add to that the goal threat in Sahal and Adrian Luna from the wide and central duo of Vazquez and Jorge Pereyra Diaz, and you have a team capable of challenging for the title this season.
But Vukomanovic is not jumping the gun. “We are not occupied thinking about the table. We know there are still 10 games and 30 points to fight for. For us, every game is a final,” he said after the latest win.
“It is already a huge achievement for Vukomanovic and his coaching staff to have brought that much-needed stability to the club. I hope they can keep improving and finally achieve something this season,” said Jali P Ibrahim, former FC Thrissur head coach.
“Blasters supporters have been expecting their team to play like this for a long time now. You just wish they were playing in front of a sea of yellow at Kochi instead of empty stands in Goa,” Vijayan said.