Odisha FC came from behind to pull off a dramatic 4-2 victory over Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Thursday. A Jeakson Singh own goal, a Diego Mauricio brace and another goal from captain Steven Taylor were enough for the Kalinga Warriors to secure their first victory of the campaign. Jordan Murray and Gary Hooper scored the goals for Kerala. This was Blasters’ fifth defeat already and puts head coach Kibu Vicuna under immense pressure as we head towards the second half of the season.
Vicuna started with an untested centre back duo of Abdul Hakku and Sandeep Singh with Bakary Kone returning on the bench. In reply, Stuart Baxter pushed Gaurav Bora back as part of the back four and used Jacob Tratt as the right back in place of Shubham Sarangi. Nandakumar Sekar and Daniel Lalhlimpuia also came into the lineup even as Manuel Onwu picked up an injury during warm-up.
The Tuskers started on the front foot and took the lead in the 7th minute when Jordan Murray capitalized on a fumble from Arshdeep Singh and pulled off a neat finish from an acute angle (1-0). Odisha hit back fifteen minutes later when Mauricio received the ball behind Hakku who missed his clearance altogether and tried to cross which took a deflection from Jeakson and went in (1-1).
It was an intense few minutes thereafter. Mauricio had another attempt saved by Albino Gomes as Odisha looked more dangerous on the counter. They got their reward soon enough when Taylor found himself open from a Jerry Mawihmingthanga free kick and calmly slotted it past the goalkeeper (2-1). Kerala’s defence was split wide open a number of times as Daniel, Nandakumar Sekar and Jerry all came close to increasing the margin.
They had to wait till the start of the second half for that. Jacob Tratt’s clearance initiated a frantic counter-attack and when Jerry laid it off for Mauricio just inside the penalty area, he absolutely buried it in (3-1). Vicuna’s men were looking absolutely shell-shocked by the turn of events which was visible in the way they were losing possession of the ball. They never really managed to threaten the Odisha goal and were always second best to the loose ball. There was more to come from Mauricio though as he made it four just on the hour mark. Having picked up a pass from Sekar down the left, he came inside, went past two and curled it around Albino with ease (4-1).
This prompted some sort of a response from Kerala. Facundo Pereyra drew the save of the match soon after when his well-placed effort was tipped aside by a fully stretched Arshdeep. Mauricio came close again as his header was deflected on to the crossbar and out following an improvised corner routine. Hooper then reduced the deficit when his shot from inside the penalty area took a deflection and left the goalie wrong-footed (4-2). They then had a triple chance right at the end which started with a Rahul KP header that hit the crossbar and ended with a Bakary Kone back volley that went just wide.
It wasn’t going to be enough as Odisha registered a comfortable victory amidst beaming smiles from Stuart Baxter and the rest of his coaching staff. They are now a point behind Blasters having both played 9 matches each and will be looking to kick on. A fifth defeat in nine matches means time is running out for Kibu Vicuna who has to now use all his experience and come up with a plan that can help them resurrect their season.