Odisha FC made history this season by reaching the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) playoffs for the first time. They may now add another first to their list when they face Bengaluru FC in the Hero Super Cup final on Tuesday.
The Juggernauts didn’t have the ideal build-up to the competition. Having been knocked out in the first round of the Hero ISL playoffs. And then parting company with head coach Josep Gombau.
Odisha FC, on the other hand, appeared to be a revitalised side under new head coach Clifford Miranda, who appears to have gotten them back to their free-flowing best.
Following a challenging first encounter, the Bhubaneshwar team has not looked back and is now one step away from gold. This is their trip through the Hero Super Cup.
Sekar saves the day
Odisha FC opened the competition against East Bengal FC, who were aiming to make amends following a poor Hero ISL campaign. The Red and Golds, who have a strong attacking lineup, got out to a fast start and took the lead in the 38th minute through Mobashir Rahman.
With just one side having a chance to go to the semi-finals, Miranda’s men replied in the second half and levelled via Nandhakumar Sekar in the 73rd minute.
They couldn’t force the winner, but the hard-fought tie ensured they might still make the semi-finals.
Aizawl FC is defeated in the second half by swagger
The Juggernauts then faced Aizawl FC, who had previously given Hyderabad FC a fight for their money. And they didn’t make it easy for Odisha FC, who couldn’t find a way through them in the goalless first half.
The second half, on the other hand, was completely different, with Odisha FC dominating from the start. Miranda’s troops stepped into another gear after taking the lead only two minutes after the restart via Diego Mauricio, as goals from Victor Rodriguez (55′) and Nandhakumar (90+3′) clinched a comfortable win.
Never give up
Odisha FC’s biggest test came against former Hero ISL winners Hyderabad FC, but other results ensured a draw was all they needed to advance.
The task was made more difficult when Hyderabad FC took the lead in the 11th minute through Javier Siverio. Odisha FC had their job cut out for them against Hero ISL 2022-23’s strongest defensive team, but their ability to rebound came to the fore again in the second half.
Odisha FC seized control of the game after Mauricio levelled in the 55th minute. As Hyderabad FC pursued the game. The Juggernauts added another goal four minutes from time via Rodriguez to secure the win. And their advancement to the final four stage.
Too strong for NorthEast United FC
In the semi-finals, Odisha FC played a resurrected NorthEast United FC. They had scored 10 goals in the Hero Super Cup group stage. Wilmar Jordan Gil had an immediate impact, putting the Highlanders up after only two minutes.
Miranda’s troops, who had not been bothered by falling behind in games, stormed back into the game. Just eight minutes later, Nandhakumar restored parity before returning in the second half to put the Juggernauts in command.
With the game in the balance in the latter moments, Mauricio scored a third goal for Odisha FC. Ensuring their participation in the final for the first time.
On Tuesday, Odisha FC will face Bengaluru FC in the final.
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