Hero Club Playoffs :Odisha FC defeated Gokulam Kerala

Football

Odisha FC easily defeated Gokulam Kerala FC 3-1 in the Hero Club Playoffs on Saturday, April 29, 2023. To secure a berth in the AFC Cup 2023-24 Group Stage. On the heels of an incredible two weeks at the tail end of the season, the club, which placed sixth in the Hero Indian Super League, has earned a spot in Asian competition.

They played in fits and turns in the league. Much like their opponents tonight, never really stringing together a decent enough run of form to really fight for the title. But they have done exactly that in the last two weeks. In terms of Aprils, Odisha has had a spring unlike any other. They have laid siege to Kozhikode. And have now added a continental icing to an already excellent cake by winning the Hero Super Cup.

It didn’t take them long either, with Odisha establishing their dominance on the game straight from the start. They were quicker on the draw and perhaps more commanding without it. The initial opportunity, though, did not fall their way. Gokulam, who spent the majority of the game as a counter-attacking team. Came at them with a Thahir Zaman corner that was brilliantly curled for Aminou Bouba in the six-yard area. The Cameroonian’s header was high and wide.

Gokulam were soon made to pay for their mistakes in more ways than one. Nandha Kumar dummied from a seemingly simple throw-in on the left touchline in the 18th minute. Victor Romero twisted, and Diego Mauricio was through one-on-one. The Brazilian concluded with his 20th goal of the season, giving Odisha the lead. It was a goal built on simplicity, but it also exposed a dormant Gokulam defence.

Odisha makes another striking win in Hero Club Playoffs

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Odisha went on a tear, with Mauricio, Mawihmingthanga. And Romero combining to generate a slew of chances and keep the Gokulam defenders on their toes. Just before the half-hour mark, Romero came closest. Hitting a free kick from a restricted angle on the left onto the crossbar.

Mauricio grabbed his second in the 31st minute. Dribbled but also bulldozing his way past Gokulam’s left side to increase the advantage. The second awakened Gokulam from his nap and stirred them into anything like passing football. Zaman and Sergio Mendigutxia began to play combinations, taking Odisha’s comfortable defensive off guard. Farshad Noor’s goal came in the 36th minute. With Zaman completing all the work on the right before throwing a superb cross home.

Within minutes, Zaman had an opportunity to equalise, arriving perfectly to head in a cross from the left. His endeavour, on the other hand, was ambitious. Odisha was relieved when halftime came just as the game’s momentum turned, allowing them a chance to breathe and refocus.

And they reset, storming back into halftime imperious. Almost immediately, Romero created another chance. But once again, the frame of the goal proved to be his undoing, with the post denying him.

It wouldn’t make a difference. In the 52nd minute, Pawan Kumar unnecessarily dragged on and brought down Diego Mauricio on the edge of the box, giving Odisha a penalty and an opportunity to regain their two-goal lead. Mauricio didn’t overlook it. Odisha regained momentum and won the game thanks to his 22nd goal of the season. They will make their Asian premiere in April, which will be packed with delight.

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