Odisha FC beat Punjab FC by 3-1 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 on Tuesday to sustain their challenge for the League Winners Shield this season. The Kalinga Warriors displaced Mohun Bagan Super Giant at the second spot in the table, with both teams level at 39 points now.

The Sergio Lobera-coached side is five points behind league leaders Mumbai City FC (44) at the moment, and they have a chance to bridge that gap when the two teams face off in Mumbai on April 8. As a consequence of this win by Odisha FC, Kerala Blasters FC has become the fifth team to qualify to the playoffs of the current campaign.

Odisha FC was in an urgent need of a revival after having won only once in their preceding five ISL fixtures. It was their seasoned striker Diego Mauricio who came to the rescue, bagging a brace, and creating some razor-sharp chances to trouble the Punjab FC defence. Punjab FC temporarily bridged the gap courtesy of their French playmaker Madih Talal, but a clinical second half sealed the deal for the home side in style.

The Kalinga Warriors went about their business in their typical style tonight, maintaining extended periods of pressure and finally exploiting the gaps that they exposed in the backline of the visitors. Jerry Lalrinzuala finished off one of those moves with an accurate cross for Mauricio that the Brazilian headed in at home to open the scoring in the 34th minute of the match. 21 minutes before that, Mauricio had undertaken a solo approach to drive into the Punjab FC box and launch a fierce shot that deflected off the crossbar.

Punjab FC has repeatedly shown that they aren’t the ones that back down from a challenge in this campaign. Talal, operating through the middle, kept distributing the ball to his forwards to discover chances. However, in a slightly different approach, the 26-year-old drove the ball right through the middle of the Odisha FC defence before drilling the ball past goalkeeper Amrinder Singh into the back of the net to get Punjab FC straight back into the game.

Odisha FC emerged as a recharged unit in the second half of the match though. They kept repeating the moves that worked wonders for them in the first half, and winger Isak Vanlalruatfela capitalised upon one of those chances to bag the second goal of the game for his team. From the edge of the box, he sent the ball to fullback Amey Ranawade on the right flank.

Ranawade squared up a low cross for Isak, who completed that move with a slick tap-in in the 61st minute. Mauricio sprung back into the thick of things soon afterwards. Odisha FC defender Mourtada Fall had drawn a foul inside the Punjab FC box, which resulted in a spot kick for the home side. Mauricio stepped up for the penalty duties, and hammered the ball on the bottom right corner to help Odisha FC get a decisive foot ahead in the contest.

Key Performer of the Match

Diego Mauricio (Odisha FC)

Mauricio completed 28 out of his 34 attempted passes, netted twice, won one foul, created a solitary goal-scoring chance, and tackled once to cap off a convincing outing.

What’s next for both teams?

Odisha FC will next play against Mumbai City FC on April 8, whereas Punjab FC returns to action against the Mohun Bagan Super Giant on April 6.

Brief Scores

Odisha FC 3 (Diego Mauricio 34’ 68’, Isak Vanlalruatfela 61’) – 1 Punjab FC (Madih Talal 38’)

For more information, visit our match centre: https://www.indiansuperleague.com/matchcentre/62589