Photo Credit: Kerala Blasters Twitter
ISL 2020-21 Odisha FC vs Kerala Blasters FC: Odisha FC register first win of the season.
The Stuart Baxter led side defeated Kerala Blasters by 4-2.
Odisha FC picked up their first win of the season with a 4-2 win over Kerala Blasters FC at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim on Thursday night. Jordan Murray gave Kerala the lead but an own goal by Jeakson Singh and a Steven Taylor goal off a set-piece helped Odisha make a first half comeback. Diego Mauricio then netted twice in the second half and substitute Gary Hooper scored a consolation goal for Kerala.
Odisha began the match with vigorous attempts to pressurize the Blasters’ defence. But Kerala Blasters were the ones who registered the first shot of the game on target courtesy of a Murray effort from distance.
It was not long after this, that Australian forward then registered himself on the scoresheet. In the 7th minute, a long ball into the box was headed goalwards by Rahul KP and required the intervention of Odisha goalkeeper Arshdeep Singh, who parried the ball into Murray’s path for the Australian to finish with precision from a narrow angle.
Kerala’s Vicente Gomez then forced custodian Arshdeep Singh into a save in the 14th minute after unleashing a venomous effort from distance, while Odisha’s first attempt on target came in the 20th minute when a Nandhakumar Sekar attempt from near the edge of the box was easily saved by the goalkeeper.
The Bhubaneswar-based outfit went on to level the score two minutes later after a Mauricio cross from inside the box on the right took a deflection off Jeakson Singh and to deceive Albino Gomes at his near post on its way into the back of the net.
The equaliser seemed to spur Kerala to regain their lead as the Blasters had three good chances in quick succession. The first one was for Vicente whose header off a cross forced Arshdeep into conceding a corner. Arshdeep then saved a thunderous Sahal Abdul Samad shot from distance before keeping out a deflected Rahul effort on goal moments later.
At the other end, Mauricio forced Odisha custodian into a stunning save in the 34th minute after the ball broke kindly for the Brazilian in the box. Odisha though took the lead three minutes from the break after an unmarked Taylor guided a Jerry Mawihmingthanga freekick into the back of the net.
Daniel Lalhlimpuia could have made it three for Odisha had he managed to hit the target following a half clearance in the box by Albino. However, he dragged his shot wide to the relief of Kerala as Odisha went in for the halftime interval with a 2-1 lead.
Odisha had another chance to take a two-goal lead early in the second period when Mauricio found Jerry in the box with time and space for the Indian winger. Jerry managed to get the shot away but blazed his effort over the crossbar.
The two of them combined for Odisha again in the 50th minute for their side’s third of the night. This time it was Jerry that played Mauricio through on goal for the Brazilian to finish with aplomb and give his side some breathing space.
Mauricio then scored Odisha’s fourth on the hour mark after a sensational solo effort. He picked up the ball on the left and ran with it before cutting on to his stronger right foot and firing a powerful effort past the goalkeeper from the edge of the box.
Kerala tried to find a way back into the contest and a powerful Facundo Pereyra shot from range in the 63rd minute required Arshdeep to make a save. Mauricio nearly scored his hat-trick two minutes later after the Brazilian’s header from a set-piece was tipped on to the woodwork by Albino.
Kerala did pull one back in the 79th minute through substitute Hooper, whose shot off a Murray cross from the right took a deflection and went into the net. Hooper had another chance to score in the final five minutes of regulation time that Arshdeep saved and Rohit Kumar also headed a corner on to the post in injury time. However, Kerala couldn’t quite score another goal as Odisha secured a hard-earned win. Odisha head coach Stuart Baxter was understandably overjoyed.
“I am very pleased for the players. They have been excellent and they have never folded. Honestly, this win wasn't a surprise for me. We changed the way we were going to play. Giving away a goal and then totally dominating the next 75 minutes of the game, it was an awesome performance,” Baxter said at the post-match press conference.
Baxter hopes that his players can build on this performance and register more wins in the upcoming matches. “We have shown that potential in almost every game but in the beginning, it was very sporadic. We made too many mistakes. We gave away silly goals which made the hill too big to climb. I'm hoping (that the win) turns out to be the catalyst.
“This is the challenge for the players and hopefully we can go on a better run. The win gives them a huge boost. It will give them more belief. Certainly, we will be more confident in our own ability,” said Baxter.
Kerala Blasters head coach Kibu Vicuna was apologetic to Kerala fans following the defeat. “First, I want to apologize to all the fans of Kerala Blasters. We didn't play a good match. We committed too many mistakes. This is not the team that we want to see,” he said.
Vicuna assessed the game and pinpointed where exactly his team lost the plot after going ahead early. “We started well and the game was even but it completely changed after the second goal. We didn't react well and didn't start the second half well. When we concede four goals, it’s almost impossible to get the three points. We will analyse the match but it has been a tough match for us,” he said.
However, the Spaniard was willing to shrug off the disappointment and bounce back strong against Jamshedpur in the next assignment. “The good thing is that now we have a game on Sunday. We have to react because we are Kerala Blasters and we have to focus on the next game and get the three points against Jamshedpur on Sunday,” said Vicuna.