ISL 2023/24 – Odisha overcomes East Bengal hurdle

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Odisha FC ousted East Bengal in an end-to-end affair at the Kalinga Stadium on Thursday, 29th February. The visiting East Bengal took a very early lead courtesy of a PV Vishnu wonder goal, but the table-topping Juggernauts completed their comeback just after the hour mark. Despite a late surge, East Bengal were unable to reclaim even a point from the fixture. 

Odisha

Heading into the match, Odisha FC were desperate for all three points. The Juggernauts had remained unbeaten in twelve league games, but after drawing their previous two matches, their momentum in the title race was waning. Mumbai City were hot on their heels – tied on points but trailing by goal difference – while Mohun Bagan were within two points, with a game in hand.

East Bengal, who had shattered Odisha’s 15-match unbeaten streak with their Super Cup final triumph last month, were just beginning to find form in the ISL. With two of their four league victories this season secured this month, the Torchbearers were eager to capitalize on the extra day February offered.

As the game kicked off, it seemed East Bengal’s February fortunes would continue favorably. Winger PV Vishnu seized the ball outside the corner of the Odisha box, swiftly evaded unsuspecting defenders, and slotted it into the near post. With just 32 seconds elapsed, it marked the quickest goal in the 2023/24 ISL season thus far, providing a dream start for the visitors.

Odisha

However, East Bengal did not have much else to show for in the first half. Odisha quickly picked up their pace and pegged the visitors onto the back foot. Diego Maurício had a couple of half chances, and Roy Krishna tested Prabhsukhan Gill from range, but to no avail.

Odisha continued to flood the East Bengal box with attacks and were rewarded for their persistence in the 38th minute. Maurício was tripped up as he was trying to cut into the box, and the referee pointed to the spot. The Brazilian took the penalty himself and did not falter, scoring his seventh goal of the campaign and his third from the spot. The Juggernauts were level before halftime.

Just three minutes later, Krishna had the ball in East Bengal’s net again, but the offside flag had already been raised. The score remained 1-1 going into the break.

Read More – ISL Title Race in the Balance as Odisha FC and Mohun Bagan SG settle for a gritty 0-0 Draw

East Bengal threatened to start the second half as they began the first, but this time they were not as successful. Souvik Chakrabarti had an audacious 30-yard attempt that went wide, followed by a Cleiton Silva effort that narrowly missed the far corner.

In the 61st minute, Odisha made their dominance count by taking the lead. Ahmed Jahouh caught the East Bengal backline off guard with a low, hard, out-swinging corner that bounced in front of the front post. Princeton Rebello, alive to the moment, sneaked out in front of his defender and turned the ball into the net. East Bengal boss Carles Cuadrat – serving a suspension in the stands – had a forlorn look on his face as the Odisha players celebrated the goal below.

During the last five minutes of play, East Bengal looked like a different team as they began pushing forward for an equalizer. In the 88th minute, Mahesh Naorem had a promising strike from just outside the penalty area, but Amrinder turned it aside with a strong right hand. The visitors maintained a high tempo in the six minutes of injury time but could not breach Odisha’s defense for a second time. The final whistle was met with cheers from the 7000-odd present at the Kalinga Stadium, as the game finished 2–1 in favor of the hosts.

ISL 2023/24 - Odisha overcomes East Bengal hurdle EBvOFC

The victory, potentially crucial towards the end of the season, places Odisha FC three points ahead of their closest title contenders. Despite conceding an early goal, Sergio Lobera will be pleased with his side’s dominance and comeback. Odisha faces a hectic schedule in the upcoming weeks, with an away match against Chennaiyin followed by the two-legged AFC Cup Inter-Zonal semi-final against the Central Coast Mariners. Supporters of Odisha FC will be optimistic that this outcome marks the start of an illustrious fortnight in the club’s history.

In contrast, East Bengal suffered another defeat, keeping them in 8th place. Cuadrat can find satisfaction in his team’s ability to score and create opportunities against a formidable opponent like Odisha, but the Torchbearers fell well short of their hosts’ standard. East Bengal will aim to stabilize their performance away at Goa on Wednesday, ahead of the crucial derby match against Mohun Bagan on Sunday, March 10th.


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Sriram Chidambaram
Sriram Chidambaramhttp://iftwc.com
A sports tragic, whose obsession percolates into the obscure world of Indian Football. My affiliations lie with the Blue Tigers, BFC, Servette, and Chelsea (in that order).

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