Odisha bounces back from Super Cup disappointment with a 2-1 win against Kerala Blasters

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Roy Krishna scored both of Odisha’s goals

Although it will take time for Odisha to recover from the Kalinga Super Cup final defeat, they managed to prevent it from having any effect on their Indian Super League season. In the third fixture of Matchday 13 of the 2023-24 ISL season, the Kalinga Warriors handed Kerala Blasters a 2-1 defeat. Roy Krishna scored a brace for Odisha, while Dimitrios Diamantakos was the lone goal-scorer for the Tuskers.

Having all of his players available besides Mourtada Fall, Odisha head coach Sergio Lobera fielded the same starting XI that took the field in the last ISL game against Jamshedpur. Despite his excellent performance in the Kalinga Super Cup, Lalthuammawia Ralte had to concede his place to Amrinder Singh.

On the other hand, Kerala Blasters head coach Ivan Vukomanovic made two changes to the last ISL starting XI of his team, where they beat Mohun Bagan Super Giant 1-0. Daisuke Sakai replaced Rahul KP, while Nihal Sudeesh was given a start in place of Kwame Peprah, who has been ruled out of the season with an injury.

The first ten minutes of the game did not produce any clean-cut opportunities as both teams struggled to find their feet, but the Tuskers managed to score with their first attempt in the 11th minute. 

Puitea tried to intercept a Pritam Kotal throw but ended up missing the ball completely, setting Sudeesh free down the right flank. The local lad from Kochi then did superbly well to find Diamantakos, who had the easiest of tasks of rolling the ball into an empty net.

Only three minutes later, Vukomanovic’s team nearly scored the insurance goal when Danish Farooq struck a powerful shot, but it was saved by Amrinder. Odisha’s first attempt came in the 15th minute when Isak Vanlalruatfela, who won the Player of the Tournament award in the Kalinga Super Cup, pulled the trigger but Sachin Suresh was up to the task under the Blasters’ goal.

Amrinder was called into action once again when Mohammed Aimen tried his luck from a distance, but he was determined not to concede a second goal. Just before the half-hour mark, Odisha had a chance where an Ahmed Jahouh cross found Carlos Delgado jumping over everyone else, but the Spanish central defender could not guide his header on target.

The link-up play between Krishna and Diego Mauricio was on point once again in this game and we got a glimpse of it in the 37th minute. An excellent through ball from the Fijian found the Brazilian in space down the right flank, but Mauricio’s shot was directed straight at Suresh.

Kerala Blasters had a glorious opportunity to score a second goal in the first half itself. In the 45th minute, a pass from Narender Gahlot was intercepted by Farooq. The ball came to Diamantakos, who laid it back for the midfielder but Amrinder came up with a brilliant save once again.

The roller-coaster match ebbed and flowed in the second half as well, as the first seven minutes saw both Odisha’s Mauricio and Kerala Blasters’ Sakai going for glory. Unfortunately, neither had the precision to get their name on the scoresheet.

But the goal eventually came in the 53rd minute as Jahouh floated in a brilliant corner and Krishna managed to somehow find his way through Kotal and Mohammed Azhar, before guiding his header past a diving Suresh.

That was not all from the Fijian in this game, as he scored once again in the 57th minute. An Amay Ranawade throw found Jahouh, who played it back to the right-back, who then launched a delightful cross for Krishna. The striker was left unmarked inside the box for some reason and managed to glance his header into the back of the net.

Kerala Blasters tried all they could to get back in the game, but it was Odisha who had the next opportunity. From a counter-attack, Jahouh laid off a headed pass for Mauricio who managed to make room for a shot before pulling the trigger. Though the shot had great power, it did nothing more than rattling the side-netting.

Odisha’s defense was resolute in the second half

The hosts kept on pouncing on the counterattack chances, as Krishna found himself with the chance of scoring a hat-trick when he got to the end of a Mauricio delivery in the 81st minute. This time, though, Suresh came to his team’s rescue.

The Kalinga Warriors had yet another opportunity just six minutes later, with Krishna being the provider this time around. The former Wellington Phoenix striker found Puitea with a headed pass, but the Mizo midfielder could not score against his former employers.

The gallery of missed chances had another glorious addition when a Jahouh free-kick found substitute Vignesh Dakshinamurthy completely unmarked in the 91st minute. Somehow, the left-back headed his attempt wide from a handshaking distance.

With this win, Odisha has climbed above Kerala Blasters and is now placed second on the table with 27 points from 13 games. They will now take on Goa on Friday while the Tuskers, who have slipped to 3rd place with 26 points in 13 games, will be up against Punjab next Monday.