Road to final: How ‘comeback kings’ Odisha FC reached the Hero Super Cup final
Odisha FC created history by reaching their first-ever playoffs in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) this season. Now they can record another first as they chase their first-ever silverware in the Hero Super Cup final against Bengaluru FC on Tuesday.
The Juggernauts didn’t have the best build-ups to the tournament after seeing themselves get knocked out in the first knockout stage in the Hero ISL playoffs and then seeing head coach Josep Gombau part ways with the club.
But come the Hero Super Cup, Odisha FC seemed a rejuvenated outfit under new head coach Clifford Miranda who seems to have got them at their free-flowing best again.
After a difficult first match, the Bhubaneshwar outfit hasn’t looked back and now stand one step away from glory. Here is their journey in this Hero Super Cup.
Sekar saves the day
Odisha FC began the tournament against East Bengal FC who were looking to prove a point after a disappointing Hero ISL campaign. The Red and Golds who boast a fine array of attackers started on the front foot and bagged the lead through Mobashir Rahman in the 38th minute.
With just one team having the chance to reach the semi-final, it was already a do-or-die match for Miranda’s men who responded in the second half and equalised through Nandhakumar Sekar in the 73rd minute.
They couldn’t force the winner but the hard-fought draw meant they still had the semi-final spot within their reach.
Second-half swagger downs Aizawl FC
The Juggernauts then took on Aizawl FC who had given Hyderabad FC a run for their money in the first match. And they didn’t make it easy for Odisha FC who couldn’t find a way past them in the first half that ended goalless.
However, the second half was totally different as Odisha FC dominated from the outset. Taking the lead just two minutes after the restart through Diego Mauricio, Miranda’s men kicked into another gear as goals from Victor Rodriguez (55’) and Nandhakumar (90+3’) sealed a comfortable win.
Never give up
Odisha FC’s toughest test was against former Hero ISL champions Hyderabad FC but other results meant they just needed a draw from that match to progress.
The task though was made harder when Hyderabad FC took the lead through Javier Siverio in the 11th minute. Odisha FC had their work cut out against the best defensive unit of Hero ISL 2022-23 but their powers of recovery came to the fore again in the second half.
Mauricio equalised in the 55th minute as Odisha FC took control of the proceedings. As Hyderabad FC chased the game, the Juggernauts bagged another goal through Rodriguez four minutes from time to seal the victory and their passage to the last four stage.
Too strong for NorthEast United FC
Odisha FC faced a revitalised NorthEast United FC in the semi-finals who had scored ten goals in the Hero Super Cup group stage. The in-form Wilmar Jordan Gil needed just two minutes to make an impact as he put the Highlanders into an early lead.
But Miranda’s men who had hardly been troubled by falling behind in games stormed back into the contest again. Nandhakumar just eight minutes later restored parity before popping up again in the second half to put the Juggernauts in the driving seat.
With the game in the balance in the dying stages, Mauricio put the game beyond all doubt scoring a third for Odisha FC and booking their place in a final for the first time.
Odisha FC will take on Bengaluru FC in the final on Tuesday.