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ISL 2023-24: Coach Lobera expresses pride after Odisha FC's 3-1 win over Punjab FC; WATCH highlights

Odisha FC beat Punjab FC by 3-1 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on Tuesday to sustain their challenge for the League Winners Shield this season.

football ISL 2023-24: Coach Lobera expresses pride after Odisha FC's 3-1 win over Punjab FC; WATCH highlights snt
First Published Apr 3, 2024, 11:21 AM IST

Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera expressed satisfaction with his team's performance as they clinched a comfortable 3-1 victory over Punjab FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 clash at Bhubaneswar's Kalinga Stadium on Tuesday.

The Kalinga Warriors asserted their dominance for much of the game, with Diego Mauricio breaking the deadlock in the 34th minute, capitalizing on a Jerry Lalrinzuala delivery. Despite Punjab FC's quick response through Madih Talal's impressive strike from distance, Odisha FC remained unfazed.

Entering the second half with the score level, Isak Vanlalruatfela netted his third goal of the season in the 61st minute, restoring Odisha FC's advantage. Mauricio sealed the victory for his side in the 68th minute, converting from the penalty spot to complete his brace and secure a 3-1 win for Odisha FC.

This triumph propelled Lobera's squad to second place in the league standings, amassing 39 points from 20 matches, trailing league leaders Mumbai City FC by five points. Notably, Odisha FC concluded the ISL 2023-24 season unbeaten at home, with their remaining fixtures slated as away matches.

The head coach expressed satisfaction with his players' quick recovery, particularly considering their recent match against Bengaluru FC on March 30.

“I am very happy and I am very proud of my players because it's so difficult to recover well, after playing the previous game three days ago,” stated Lobera at the post-match press conference.

Analyzing the match, he said, “I think the big problem for us in the first half was that we rushed. We wanted to arrive very quickly at the opponent's goal. And we were playing against a team that, for me, is the best team in counter-attack actions.”

“I am very happy because it's three very important points for us,” he added.

Odisha FC joins an exclusive club as only the third team in ISL history to complete a season without a home defeat. They follow in the footsteps of Bengaluru FC, who accomplished this feat in the 2018-19 season, and Delhi Dynamos in the 2016 season.

The Spanish tactician is thrilled with the collective effort of the medical team and players in navigating the demanding schedule of this season. Their dedication has been instrumental in guiding the Kalinga Warriors to maintain an impeccable home record throughout the ongoing league season.

“We are winning points because at the end of this crazy season with this crazy calendar, not speaking about only ISL as we were playing three competitions. They (the players and the staff) are doing an amazing job. The players are making an amazing effort and we need to be proud. We need to be proud of our team, our family, medical staff, fitness coach, and everyone who is involved with the team. Because it's not easy to achieve these numbers at home,” he said.

The 47-year-old coach also acknowledges the significant role played by the fans in motivating the team to excel and attaining this impressive milestone.

He stated, “I want to thank the fans because, as always, they are very loyal supporters. Always with us, always behind us in good moments as well as in difficult moments. And if we achieved this, it is because of them for sure.”

Odisha FC's next fixture is scheduled for April 8, as they travel to take on Mumbai City FC. However, they will face this challenge without their influential midfielder Ahmed Jahouh, who is suspended for the upcoming match.

On being asked how the coach intends to cope with his absence, Lobera replied, “It's not about the players. It's about the team. And we are ready for the challenge. We want to win the next game because we are going to fight till the end. This team always shows everyone that we are fighting till the end, in all the competitions, in all the games. And let's see what happens because ISL is an amazing competition because up until the end, everything is possible.”

“I am sure if we are able to win the remaining two games, we can get something important. I am sure, one hundred per cent,” he signed off. 

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