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ISL 2023-24: Lobera delighted with Odisha FC's comeback win over Mohun Bagan SG in semi-final clash (WATCH)

Odisha FC secured a 2-1 victory against the Mohun Bagan Super Giant (MBSG) at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar in the first leg of their semi-final fixture of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on Tuesday night.

football ISL 2023-24: Lobera delighted with Odisha FC's comeback win over Mohun Bagan SG in semi-final clash (WATCH) snt
First Published Apr 24, 2024, 11:47 AM IST

Odisha FC's head coach, Sergio Lobera, expressed his contentment following his team's remarkable comeback against Mohun Bagan SG, securing a 2-1 victory in the first leg of the Indian Super League (ISL) semi-final at Bhubaneswar's Kalinga Stadium on Tuesday

Despite an early setback with Manvir Singh's quick-headed goal, which stands as the second-fastest in ISL playoff history, Odisha swiftly responded. Carlos Delgado leveled the score within eight minutes, capitalizing on Ahmed Jahouh's corner delivery with a clinical finish.

The momentum swung in Odisha's favor in the 39th minute when Roy Krishna exploited a defensive lapse by Mohun Bagan SG's Hector Yuste, slotting home past Vishal Kaith at the near post. This goal not only handed Odisha FC the lead but also elevated Krishna to the status of the club's highest single-season goal-scorer, tallying an impressive 13 goals for the ISL 2023–24 campaign.

This triumph holds significant weight for Odisha FC, breaking a nine-match winless streak against the Mariners and marking their first-ever victory over them in the ISL.

Lobera was full of praise for his players' performance, highlighting their collective determination and resilience in orchestrating yet another comeback win on home soil. The Spanish coach lauded his team's fighting spirit and their ability to maintain composure until the final whistle, securing a crucial victory in the opening leg of the semi-final clash.

"As always, this team has shown everyone strong character, quality, and a strong mentality. It's not the first time we've come back after conceding a goal. The reaction of the players is very important because when we concede a goal in a big, important game like today or against a strong team like Mohun Bagan SG, it’s not easy to react (after conceding the goal),” he said in the post-match press conference.

“But I’m very happy and proud of my players because the reaction was amazing. We continue to be loyal to our style of play, trying to dominate the game. We dominated many phases of the game and generated several chances. It’s very important if you want to win big games—to have this mentality and character. And the team showed this mentality and character in a difficult situation, conceding one goal early,” he added.

Lobera's team has enjoyed extraordinary success this season, especially when playing in front of their passionate supporters. They concluded the season with an unbeaten record at home, clinching victory in nine out of their 12 home matches, with the remaining three ending in draws. The head coach was quick to express his heartfelt gratitude to the loyal supporters whose unwavering dedication buoyed the team through every challenge they faced.

“There is no secret. Finally, the team works hard; they are having an amazing season. It’s a big achievement, big numbers to be unbeaten at home, and I also want to say ‘thank you’ to our supporters because they are pushing us and helping us in difficult moments,” he commented.

“Because pushing us in a good moment and being with us in a good moment is very easy. But when you’re in difficult moments, during the game or some period of the season, it’s important to have them push us. They also deserve these results, and I'm very happy with these results because, I think, it’s a big achievement,” he continued.

Odisha FC's defensive linchpin, Carlos Delgado, will be notably absent in the crucial second leg clash in Kolkata due to his suspension. The Spanish defender received his marching orders in the 74th minute of the previous encounter after accumulating two yellow cards during the game.

Addressing the absence of one of his most dependable players, he remarked, "It’s painful to lose one player like Carlos (Delgado) in this situation with two yellow cards. But this is football. We need to be ready for the challenge.”

Despite facing strong home support, Lobera remains optimistic about securing a favorable outcome in the second leg of the first semi-final on Sunday.

Speaking about the challenges of playing at the home of the Mariners, Lobera stated: "It’s amazing to play against a lot of supporters in their stadium. When you are playing in front of lots of supporters, it means that you are playing for something important. We are ready for this challenge, we are feeling excited, and we are enjoying the moment. We aren't feeling the pressure.”

“Finally, maybe we can get the victory at their home. As we did before, we are ready for this. We are excited about this. We are going to prepare the game to win in Kolkata,” he signed off.

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