Odisha score six goals against NorthEast United’s youngsters

Odisha defeated NorthEast United 6-0

Odisha started their 2022 Durand Cup campaign exactly how they would have wanted to – with a stunning victory against fellow Indian Super League side NorthEast United. The Kalinga Warriors secured a 6-0 victory, with Jerry Mawihmingthanga getting a brace and Nandhakumar Sekar, Isak Vanlalruatfela, Diego Mauricio and Thoiba Singh netting one goal apiece.

Though both teams play in the same competition, the result was not unexpected given the difference in the starting XI of the sides. NorthEast United have not signed any foreigner so far, and despite naming some ISL-experienced players like Pragyan Gogoi and Mashoor Shereef in their team, the Highlanders named an inexperienced side for this match.

On the contrary, Odisha made it very clear that they are not participating in this competition merely to make up numbers but to go all out for the title. Josep Gambau named three foreigners in his starting XI, alongside experienced Indian players like Nandhakumar and Raynier Fernandes.

The Kalinga Warriors had the better start and could have scored as early as the fourth minute, but Jerry could not capitalize on a delightful cross from Isaac Vanlalsawma. A minute later, Isaac himself had the opportunity to score, but his effort was saved by NorthEast’s young custodian Nikhil Deka.

The Highlanders had a rare attempt when former Kerala Blasters player Muktasana Gotibaym tried his luck from distance in the 10th minute, but he could not bother the Odisha keeper Lalthuammawia Ralte with his shot.

Gambau’s team was enjoying uncontested dominance and the opening goal eventually came in the 15th minute, when Jerry found himself at the end of yet another cross and his shot found the back of the net after taking a deflection on its way.

Odisha almost doubled the lead only seven minutes later when a cross into the box caused chaos, resulting in Nikhil failing to gather the ball securely. However, none of Odisha’s attackers was in the vicinity to make the youngster pay for his mistake.

The second goal eventually came in the 27th minute. Goalkeeper Ralte gave a great account of his vision and awareness as his long kick allowed Nandhakumar to have a free run towards NorthEast’s goal, and the winger matched the custodian’s brilliance with a well-executed shot.

With the Indians showcasing their talent, it was then the turn of new acquisition Pedro Martin to prove what he can offer to the team. Around the half-hour mark, the former Atletico Madrid player dribbled past his marker with great ease before pulling the trigger, but Nikhil was up to the task this time around.

The third goal came in the 38th minute, courtesy of similar skills and trickery from Martin. The Spaniard once again dribbled past the NorthEast defenders easily before playing a precise pass for Nandhakumar, who had only Nikhil to beat and did so with no problems whatsoever.

The second half started exactly how the first half did, except instead of Martin, it was the turn of another Spanish acquisition in Saul Crespo who looked dangerous. The former SD Ponferradina midfielder failed to hit the target with his first attempt, while his second attempt was saved by Nikhil.

NorthEast got a very rare chance in the 65th minute when Joni Rabha found himself at the end of a set-piece, but he could not keep his header on target. Four minutes later, Odisha’s Thoiba got a similar chance and while his header was on target, Nikhil came to the Highlanders’ rescue once again.

After a barrage of attacks that did not result in anything, Odisha finally scored their first goal of the second half in the 81st minute. Having scored already, it was not time for Nandhakumar to play the provider as he launched a cross into the box, and unlike Thoiba, Isak made no mistake in finding the back of the net with his header.

Diego Mauricio scored Odisha’s fifth goal

Diego Mauricio scored Odisha’s fifth goal

Mauricio did not start the match, but coming on as a substitute, it did not take him long to leave his mark. In the 88th minute, he decided to join the party with a powerful shot that left Nikhil stranded.

The demolition job, however, was not over yet. Like Nandhakumar, Isak switched roles from being a scorer to a provider as his cross found Thoiba unmarked inside the box, and the lad from Manipur was not willing to let another opportunity go begging.

Odisha’s next match is against another ISL team, Kerala Blasters, which will be played on 23rd August in Guwahati’s Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium. Meanwhile, NorthEast United will take the field next on 21st August at the same ground, as they go head-to-head against Army Green.