Odisha strengthens pole position with dominant 2-0 win over Kerala Blasters

Odisha is topping the charts in their group

Unstoppable Odisha registered their second consecutive victory in the 2022 Durand Cup by beating fellow Indian Super League outfit Kerala Blasters by a 2-0 margin. Isaac Vanmalsawma and Saul Crespo scored the goals for the Kalinga Warriors.

As they did in the first match as well, Odisha fielded a strong team for this game. Josep Gambau used three of his six foreigners – Carlos Delgado, Pedro Martin and Crespo. Besides that, last match’s star performer Jerry Mawihmingthanga also featured in the starting XI.

On the other hand, Kerala Blasters is predominantly treating this competition as a platform where they can test the character of their academy players. Polish coach of the Tuskers’ reserve team, Tomasz Tchorz relied on youngsters Roshan Gigi and Muhammad Ajsal in the attacking department.

As many expected, the Kalinga Warriors had the better start to the game but could not make use of their possession, with Tchorz’s defensive unit proving their mettle. It took 15 minutes for Gambau’s team to launch the first major attack.

Shubham Sarangi picked up Jerry at the edge of the box with a perfectly-weighted pass, but the latter could not keep his shot on target. Four minutes later, a through ball from the deep found Martin unmarked, but his shot was blocked by a player in yellow.

Odisha had yet another good opportunity in the 22nd minute when Delgado delivered a nearly-perfect cross for Jerry, but the Tuskers’ goalkeeper Sachin Suresh got the ball first before he could. The youngster was called into action once again only twelve minutes later when Jerry’s cross found Nandhakumar Sekar in the box. Having scored in the last match, Nandhakumar almost added another goal to his tally, but Sachin came to his team’s rescue.

Completely against the run of play, Tchorz’s young stars had a rare chance of taking the lead just seconds before half-time. Aritra Das received the ball on the left flank and then did well to use his pace and trickery to get into the box. However, he could not cross the last and most important hurdle, as his shot was way off target.

Gambau’s team started the second half as they did in the first period, but there was a key difference – they could find the back of the net this time around. Substitute Diego Mauricio made a darting run before finding Isaac with a delightful pass, and the Mizoram midfielder made no mistake in beating Sachin.

The Kalinga Warriors could have easily doubled their lead at the hour-mark. Having played the role of a provider in the first goal, Mauricio found himself at the end of a gilt-edged chance as Lalruathhara picked him out with a precise cross, but the Brazilian striker could not keep his header on target.

A minute later, Shubham launched another perfect cross which found Mauricio unmarked like the previous occasion, but the former Flamengo player could not utilize this opportunity as well. He had another go in the 71st minute, and perhaps this effort could have been on target, but a Kerala defender made a crucial block.

Saul Crespo scored the insurance goal for Odisha

Saul Crespo scored the insurance goal for Odisha

That, however, did not play a major role in terms of deciding the fate of the game as Gambau’s men did get the insurance goal only two minutes later. From a corner, Australian acquisition Osama Malik found Crespo with a glanced header and the former Ponferradina man did well to keep his shot on target.

With no one utilizing his crosses, Shubham decided to try his luck out from distance in the 83rd minute, but his shot was nowhere near the target. A couple of minutes later, Mauricio found himself through on goal after beating his marker, but his luck was certainly not on his side in this match as his shot was saved by Sachin.

The Tuskers could have had a lifeline in the 90th minute when Mohammed Azhar’s thunderous shot almost found the back of the net, but Odisha’s custodian Dylan D’Silva kept the effort out with an equally brilliant save.

The last big chance of the game, however, did fall to the Kalinga Warriors. Highly-rated young sensation Akshunna Tyagi showed a glimpse of his immense potential as he played a defense-splitting through ball for Mauricio, but Sachin came out of his goal at the right moment to prevent a third goal.

Following this defeat, Odisha strengthened its position in the first place with six points. Their next match is against I-League’s Sudeva Delhi on 29th August. On the other hand, Kerala Blasters are placed in the third position with a solitary point, and they will now take on fellow ISL side NorthEast United on 27th August.