Kerala Blasters endured a forgettable Saturday night in Goa in a round four Indian Super League (ISL) clash which finished 5-2 in FC Goa's favour. While Ferran Corominas, who netted a hat-trick, and Manuel Lanzarote ran riot to inflict a painful defeat on The Tuskers, it was the injury to star player Dimitar Berbatov which left the visiting coach Rene Meulensteen worried.
The former Manchester United man went down within five minutes of the game starting and had to be replaced with Milan Singh. Speaking at the post-match press conference, Meulensteen revealed that Berbatov has picked a calf injury.
"It was definitely a big set back. You can see now how important he has been playing as a catalyst. I don't know what extent is the injury. We'll have to find out," he said.
"It is going to be a problem for us for sure. Everybody could see that Berba was getting comfortable in that deeper role with a lot of composure to pop the ball in the right angles. We'll have to see how we're going to cope up with his absence for the next few games and if we're going to miss him for longer.
"We didn't handle the game well after Berba had to come off. If you see that the other team is pressing very high, our main strategy was to relay the press. Only then can we get the ball in the opposition half and press from there. We couldn't get that message through quick enough," rued the coach.
Even though both teams went into the break level, Goa's Spanish hitman Ferran Corominas dealt Kerala three killer blows in quick succession in the second half - a period Meulensteen described as 'seven minutes of torture'.
"It was a bit of a frantic start as well (in the first half). They made it 2-1 from our own mistake and then we got back in the game with the score 2-2 at half-time.
"It was four mistakes that led to those goals and then it was seven minutes of complete torture, especially in terms of the way we were defending of late. If you come out of the dressing room with 55 minutes and it's 5-2, it has to do with quality from the opposition and great finishing and for us, probably poor defending.
"If you concede three (goals) in seven minutes, there is almost no way back for us. We still had a chance to score two or three goals. That was how strange it was for us. Great viewing for the supporters but we have to go back and drain out this poison as quickly as we can," reasoned Meulensteen.
The 53-year-old went on to praise the quality in FC Goa's ranks but pointed out their passing strategy from the back was capitalised upon by Blasters.
"They have some really good footballers in (Ahmed) Jahouh, Edu Bedia, (Manuel) Lanzarote and (Bruno) Pinheiro at the back. That's basically where the team is doing well. They got a good understanding but it's also where the risk is involved because, obviously, we capitalised on that twice in the first half."
The former Fulham boss is not overly concerned by the scoreline and felt that early bookings picked up by his players also contributed to them not imposing themselves physically on FC Goa's attackers.
"You need to always look over a longer period. If it (huge losses) becomes a trend, then you have a problem. The link was good between Coro and Lanzarote. The problem was also the yellow cards that left us a bit reluctant to make those challenges (on them)."
He spelt out the positives from the game for Kerala Blasters before concluding.
"Jackichand (Singh) is a lively player. It's great for his to get on the score-sheet. I'm pleased for him. That's one of the positives that we will be taking back.
A few other players also could have got a goal. Courage (Pekuson) also was close to scoring. So we've got scoring abilities. So we just have to go back to our basics and don't make those types of defensive mistakes.
You need to always look over a longer period. If it becomes a trend, then you have a problem. The link was good between Coro and Lanzarote. The problem was also the yellow cards that left us a bit reluctant to make those challenges.