Odisha FC beat ten-man Bashundhara Kings 1-0 at the Kalinga stadium in Bhubaneswar to advance to the Inter-Zone Semi-Final Playoff for the first time in their history.

The Kalinga Warriors topped Group D with the win as it took their tally to 12 points, two ahead of second-placed Kings.

The win completed a remarkable turnaround for Sergio Lobera's men who won four straight matches in the competition to qualify after suffering defeats in their first two matches.

Senegalese defender Mourtada Fall has proved his worth again on the biggest stage to hand Odisha FC their most desired lead in the 61st minute of the game. The 6’3’’ foot tall defender utilised his height, showing his prowess inside the Bashundhara Kings’s box with his precise headed flick that directed Ahmed Jahouh’s inch-perfect corner into the goal. The Jahouh-Fall combination clicked again in the set-piece situation, which helped Sergio Lobera’s team etch their name into the history of this continental tournament.

It was end-to-end stuff in Odisha, as both teams were giving their best to secure their spot in the next round of qualification. The first half showed the battle of midfield as both teams wanted to assess each other with more possession on their feet.

The Kalinga Warriors started the game on a very positive note, creating numerous chances throughout the right flank with Cy Goddard, Amey Ranawade, and Diego Mauricio. Carlos Delgado missed the first real goal-scoring opportunity in the 28th minute when he missed the free header inside the box. The visitors also got their chance in the first half, but Miguel Figueira failed to use the dangerous set-piece just behind Odisha FC’s box when his left-footed shot went far away from Amrinder Singh.

The decisive moment took place when Asror Gafurov made a nasty challenge on Jahouh’s ankle in the additional minutes of the first half, which showed him a direct red card, causing his side to play with a man short. The scoreline was at the level at halftime, but Odisha FC showed more prominence with their offensive creativity, which managed to break the deadlock in the 61st minute, edging past Bashundhara Kings’ 18-year-old goalkeeper Mehedi Hasan Srabon.

The Moroccan midfielder was pivotal again with his creative spark and sheer control of the game, which helped the hosts dominate the game. Jahouh was brilliant in corners, making numerous crossings that rattled the opponent’s defense several times, but sometimes it was either Roy Krishna or Diego Mauricio who missed the half-chances; otherwise, Odisha FC could easily win the game by a big margin. Jahouh himself got a chance in the 92nd minute of the game, where he could easily seal the game in Odisha FC’s favor, but his attempt missed the target by inches.

In the second half, the biggest chance for the visitor came in the 55th minute, when their Brazilian striker Dori wasted an open chance as he failed to beat Amrinder in a one on one situation. The Bangladeshi side got their final chance in the dying moments of the game, just before the final whistle, when Robinho’s free-kick went far away from the goalpost.

Odisha FC have showcased their character in every possible way, as they made a remarkable comeback in the group stage matches by winning the last four consecutive matches that amended their two opening match defeats. Today’s result has been the biggest success for Odisha FC in continental events. The Juggernauts will now proceed to the AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semi-Final Playoff, being the only Indian team to be qualified.