There was a different kind of attraction to this Super Cup semifinal fixture as two Indian coaches, Clifford Miranda and Floyd Pinto, led their sides to this game. While Miranda effectively carried on what Josep Gombau left, Pinto had a different job to do. In the league, NorthEast United finished dead last with only five points to their name. They had a bit more sting under Vincenzo Annesse but he left for the Nepal job at the end of ISL. The season was for the Indian to finish and he did it with his head held high. Coming into the knockouts, NorthEast United had scored the joint most number of goals (11). But they were facing the side with the least amount of goals conceded in the group stage.
For a trivial fact, this was the third time Odisha FC faced the first team of Northeast United FC, all three of them were against different managers. This only remotely sums up the team’s condition.
The tempo was set with two early goals each. In the opening minutes, Mashoor Shereef’s long diagonal ball found Chhara whose delivery sat perfectly for Wilmar Jordan Gil. Odisha FC’s reply came soon as Jerry Mawihmingthanga’s cross was slotted in well by the Hero of the Match Nandha Sekhar. Both the goals looked identical.
In the 32nd minute, Diego Mauricio timed his run down the right flank to perfection. His cut-back cross went short of Nandha at the far post. Four minutes later, Joseba Beitia dribbled between a cluster of Odisha midfielders and played a pass to his vacant Left Winger, who played it straight to the keeper.
Mirshad spotted a run down the left from Jithin but Amrinder swept it out of his box. Seconds later, Victor Rodriguez saw himself in a shooting position. Covered by a defender, he cheekily back-heeled it to Mauricio whose effort was blocked away for a corner by Mashoor. The first half ended with a series of end-to-end moves asking for a decisive touch. Miranda’s side had more ball (66%) but both the keepers had equal action.
Just as the second half started, Jithin played it through to Jordan, who muscled Osama Malik but missed the 1-on-1 situation in the goal. In reply, Mauricio tried to curl one from the left but it didn’t trouble Mirshad. Soon after, Nandha failed to connect to Victor’s clever driven cross.
In the 52nd minute, a brilliant through ball from Nandha sent Mauricio en route to the goal but Mirshad again proved himself stronger.
A series of attacks led by Nandha Kumar finally paid him when his one-two exchange inside the Northeast United box left him with acres of space to blast it anywhere he wanted from seven yards. He chose the top corner and it went in off the crossbar.
Just a few minutes from his second goal, the winger missed a golden opportunity to complete his first hat-trick for Odisha FC. He again took a touch too many but the defense outdid his shot on target. He was subbed out for Isak Ralte in the 80th minute.
The NorthEast skipper tried to catch the Odisha defenders by surprise. In the process, he went on his way but was flagged offside. Right before the second-half drinks break, Odisha were awarded a free-kick outside the area. Nothing came out of it.
In the 85th minute, Mauricio finally got his goal. He took the stray ball from outside the box and drove it right to the bottom left corner.
The added time was all about highlanders coming closer and closer to closing the deficit. As a result of a narrowed defense, the full-backs Alex Saji and Hira Mondal got a lot of space to operate in. The 90th minute saw a great save from Amrinder Singh off Romain Phillipoteaux’s first-time volley. Jordan came agonizingly close to making it 3-2 with four minutes left. Once again the skipper was through to the goal but he just lobbed it to Amrinder’s midrib.
The Super Cup was the biggest silver lining in what was one of the worst seasons ever for an ISL club. In the post-match presentation, Highlanders’ coach Floyd Pinto said: “The plan was to feed Jordan. It could have been a different story had we taken our chances.”
Odisha FC will face Bengaluru FC in the pursuit of their first-ever National Trophy. The final will take place on April 25 (Tuesday) at the EMS Corporate Stadium, Kozhikode.
Follow our website for more Indian Football updates!