ISL 2023/24 – Odisha draws first blood in the Semi-Final clash as they edge past Mohun Bagan SG 2-1.


At the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha FC defeated Mohun Bagan SG  2-1 in the first leg of the Semi-Final of the 2023–24 ISL Playoffs on Tuesday, 24th March. The heated encounter had everything from end-to-end attacking action to goals and also several fiery moments leading to red cards as both teams produced a thriller of a game. Roy Krishna and Carlos Delgado scored for the Juggernaauts as they got the better of the Mariners for the time in ISL history.

Odisha vs Mohun Bagan

Odisha FC was coming to this game after a thrilling Playoff win in extra time over Kerala Blasters at the same stadium. Sergio Lobera also renewed his rivalry with Antonio Lopez Habas as he was looking to maintain his strong record over the Spanish manager. Lobera decided to play the same team following the win in the previous game with Roy Krishna leading the line against his former team and manager.

The Mariners were playing their first match after a week of celebrations following their historic ISL Shield Triumph over Mumbai City FC. Habas was involved in another ISL semifinal and was looking forward to being the first manager to win the ISL Trophy three times if he was successful this time around as well. Habas also refrained from making any changes to the starting line-up with Armando Sadiku and Dimitri Petrartos leading the line for the Mariners. Bagan was also boosted by their dominant and unbeaten record against the Juggernauts, having never lost a game to their Eastern rivals in ISL. However, they did suffer a crushing 5-2 defeat at the hands of Odisha FC this season in the AFC Cup. With both sets of fans playing for their bragging rights to qualify for the ISL Final, the match was set up to be a classic.

As expected from these two teams, the match started with attacks from both teams. The Mariners took the lead in just the 3rd minute of the semi-final as Manvir Singh scored one of the easiest goals he will ever score, owing to a catastrophic marking error by Mourtada Fall as Manvir simply had to stand his ground and wait for Dimi Petratos’ corner to reach him before nodding it past a rooted-to-the-line Amrinder Singh. After such a strong start, it appeared that the intensity and quality of the ISL Shield winners would sweep Odisha aside but soon they started fighting back.

Odisha vs Mohun Bagan

To everyone’s surprise, Odisha did not lose any motivation and started piling up pressure on the Bagan defence, threatening with very direct and sharp attacking transitions led by Ahmed Jahouh and Roy Krishna. After winning four consecutive corner kicks, Odisha finally got their reward from the fifth corner as Jahouh’s curling corner kick was met by an unmarked Carlos Delgado, who jogged into the ball from three yards out and equalized in the 11th minute of the game.

The exhilarating, end-to-end start to the match continued through the rest of the match as both teams had chances to score and it looked as if both teams were desperate to take the lead. Odisha however, was winning a lot of important duels and outrunning the Bagan midfield, quite possibly due to the latter playing a game after ten days.

Some Bagan players were not looking that sharp and Roy Krishna took full advantage of this.  Running onto an Amrinder kick, he cushioned a header onto his path, outpaced and bullied a complacent Hector Yuste, and placed a delicate finish right in between Kaith’s legs. In the 39th minute, Krishna had made it 2-1 with a classic Roy Krishna goal that he used to score for the Mariners a few years ago under Antonio Habas.

Odisha vs Mohun Bagan

The second half started with the same intensity and intentions from both teams. The Kalinga Warriors were looking to score a third to not just bury the game but also the tie potentially by taking a two-goal cushion at least going to Kolkata. Mohun Bagan SG on the other hand were desperate to equalize the tie and also maintain their bragging rights over Odisha FC, knowing they cannot concede another goal as well. This resulted in another end-to-end game with no team looking to slow down the pace and intensity of the game.

Odisha vs Mohun Bagan

The intensity of the game made the players more aggressive and they were often getting into physical tussles, last-itch tackles, and a fired-up atmosphere. There was more drama as Armando Sadiku got a second yellow for a silly foul in the 67th minute, lashing out at Ahmed Jahouh after the two had been engaged in a running verbal duel for a few minutes prior. This was soon followed by another silly second yellow and sending off, this time for Odisha’s Carlos Delgado, who deliberately handled the ball in an attempt to stop it being played into the box. They will both, of course, miss the next leg as both teams continued the game with ten men.

Even though the tensions were high in this fiery and intense encounter, some of the refereeing decisions under pressure were commendable as Roy Krishna’s penalty decision was taken away after he was just offside before receiving the ball.

Both teams created several great chances despite both going down to ten, and as the two exhausted sides slugged it out misses were blatant too.
Krishna wasted a 3 v 2 which he created out of nothing with a wayward pass to Aniket Jadhav. Thapa saw a ball bounce off his thigh after an inadvertent deflection and bounce off the crossbar from two yards out. Kiyan Nassiri created all sorts of bother after coming on. Jahouh ended up playing center-back and by the end was clearing, tackling, or blocking almost every Bagan attack.

The game, finally ended in the home team’s favour with Odisha FC securing their first-ever win over Mohun Bagan SG in the ISL, that too in the first leg of the semi-final. With this win, Lobera’s men will be confident ahead of the second leg in Kolkata, hoping they will survive the wrath of the Salt Lake Stadium.
Habas on the other hand will be hoping for a comeback in the second leg at home and there are no reasons to believe they won’t consider Mohun Bagan’s brilliant record at home.

It promises to be an exciting game for fans and followers of Indian football as the two legendary Spanish managers will write another chapter in their rivalry as they resume the fight to reach the ISL Final on 28th April in Kolkata.

Follow IFTWC for more updates on Indian Football.

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