Hero Super Cup winners Odisha FC emerged on top in the Hero Club Playoffs match against Gokulam Kerala FC to book their spot in next season’s AFC Cup. 

Start striker Diego Mauricio led the way as he netted a hat-trick to hand the Juggernauts a 3-1 success over the hosts in Kozhikode as Clifford Miranda’s men added another feather to his cap. 

Odisha FC fresh from their Hero Super Cup win started off in dominating fashion putting Gokulam Kerala on the back foot from the word go. The Kerala side saw two players pick up yellow cards in the opening exchanges that put them on the back foot. 

The in-form Mauricio profited in the 18th minute as he was at the end of a crisp Odisha FC passing move that saw Victor Rodriguez play him in goal and the Brazilian had no trouble slotting it past the goalkeeper to put Odisha FC in front. 

Mauricio then scored one of the goals of the campaign as he danced past a number of Gokulam Kerala FC defenders to fire past the goalkeeper and double the Juggernauts’ lead in the 30th minute. 

But just when it appeared that Odisha FC would run away with it, the home side hit back through Farshad Noor who headed home a Thahir Zaman cross in the 36th minute to half the deficit. 

Odisha FC ended the half in which they also rattled the crossbar through Rodriguez in front but with just a slender lead in their favour. 

Rodriguez was unlucky again at the start of the second half as his shot from a corner came off the upright as Gokulam Kerala FC survived. 

Mauricio though once again proved to be too hot to handle for the Gokulam defence as he was fouled inside the box allowing him to step up and convert the penalty that gave him his hat-trick and Odisha FC a 3-1 lead. 

Gokulam Kerala responded well to the Juggernauts’ goal in the second half and put Miranda’s men under pressure but didn’t have a tangible reward to show for their efforts as Miranda’s men showed their defensive resilience. 

Odisha FC closed the victory to secure direct qualification to the AFC Cup 2023-24 group stages and end their campaign on a brilliant note after their Hero Super Cup triumph.