Yesterday will go down in Odisha FC history at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode, Kerala. The Bhubaneswar-based side was crowned Hero Super Cup champions with a 2-1 victory over Bengaluru FC, their first-ever silverware. While Brazilian striker Diego Mauricio scored both goals for the champions in the first half, Bengaluru FC cut the deficit with a penalty in the 85th minute via a Sunil Chhetri goal.
Odisha FC dominated the first half against Bengaluru FC, scoring two goals through Diego Mauricio. Clifford Miranda became the first Indian coach to win the Hero Super Cup, which also created history. Bengaluru FC, who were playing in their third final of the season, came out on top in a rain-soaked first half. The Blues dominated possession in the opposition half, but Odisha, who had conceded two early goals in their previous two games, was content to stay back and take a conservative approach to their first-ever final.
Ahead of the game, Bengaluru FC head coach Simon Grayson made one change to the side which started the semi-final encounter against Jamshedpur FC, with Jayesh Rane, who scored the opener in Friday’s Jamshedpur FC fixture replacing the injured Javi Hernandez. Odisha FC, meanwhile, went with an unchanged side from their semi-final clash against NorthEast United FC.
Despite the rain pouring heavily at the EMS Stadium in Kozhikode, both teams had started the Hero Super Cup final on a positive note, and there was a constant battle for the second ball. Just the start one would want in a final. Bruno Ramires made an uncharacteristic error as he completely missed the ball in a bid to clear it. He ended up slicing the ball, but luckily Gurpreet was right behind him to mop up the danger. A bit later Mauricio poked the ball to catch Gurpreet out from a close distance but he did well to dive down to his right and made the save.
Odisha broke through in a dramatic manner in the 23rd minute, when Gurpreet Singh Sandhu bungled what should have been a routine gathering from a harmless-looking Diego Maurcio free-kick. The Brazilian’s strike was targeted straight at the Bengaluru custodian, who had his entire body behind the ball but let it slide through his grasp and across the goal line. He will be reluctant to look at it again.
Just a few minutes later, Mauricio went close again when he headed a Jerry Mawihmingthanga cross wide of the far post. But Odisha’s talisman proved unstoppable the next time he scored, making it 2-0 seven minutes before halftime. Victor Rodriguez’s diagonal ball picked up Jerry on the right, who headed it across the face of the goal. Mauricio tapped it in with Gurpreet caught off guard after rushing past his marker Sandesh Jhingan.
The Juggernauts took a two-goal cushion into the break, with the Blues having their task cut out for them in the second period. With Bengaluru looking disheveled and entirely on the back foot, Clifford Miranda’s men pressed on and could have extended their lead before the break. Nandha Kumar was the first to test Gurpreet with a curving volley from the edge of the area. Jerry then caused havoc down the flank, entering the area from the right before smashing a powerful attempt off the crossbar.
Bengaluru, who were just two goals down at halftime, made four substitutions for the second half. Simon Grayson introduced Sivasakthi Narayanan, Pablo Perez, Prabir Das, and Aleksandar Jovanovic in an attempt to prevent a second final defeat in less than a month. The changes helped the Blues push ahead in their quest to reduce the deficit. They came close to doing so, once again through Chhetri, when the skipper rose highest to get his head to a corner, but could only place his attempt wide off Amrinder Singh’s post.
Odisha, on the other hand, remained dominant after the restart, as Gurpreet was kept busy in the Blues’ goal. Gurpreet had to dive low just 40 seconds into the second half to deflect Mauricio’s long-range effort. Five minutes later, he was at full stretch, pushing Victor’s cheeky chipped attempt over the crossbar. Nandha, who had been a threat on the left wing, reiterated his assault on the right. Nandha launched a strong low shot after being provided a defense-splitting ball by Victor, which Prabir managed to deflect onto the side-netting.
Bengaluru had to wait 77 minutes before testing Amrinder with their first shot on target, and it wasn’t terribly frightening either. Pablo, out of alternatives on the box’s edge, attempted a low effort through a crowd of legs, that Amrinder easily pushed aside. With only five minutes remaining, Bengaluru had a ray of hope when Sivasakthi was hauled down inside the box by Nandha. The resultant penalty was converted into a goal by the ever-dependable Sunil Chhetri through a one-step run-up.
The goal forced Odisha FC to make three substitutions in one go as Isaac Vanmalsawma, Saul Crespo, and Paul Ramfangzauva came on for Jerry, Mauricio, and Sekar respectively. The travelling Bengaluru fans screamed with confidence, knowing that there was still enough time to get back into the game. Bengaluru, on the other hand, was going to meet a terrible end. Suresh Wangam’s cross from the left was just headed wide by Jhingan in the dying stages, giving them one of their best chances of the game. As referee Rahul Kumar Gupta blew his full-time whistle, Odisha was relieved more than ever.
The task was completed as they’d won their first-ever trophy. After winning their first-ever trophy, the Juggernauts will face former Hero I-League champions Gokulam Kerala FC in the Hero Club Playoffs on Saturday. The winner of this match advances to the AFC Cup group stage in the 2023-24 season.
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