Guwahati: Odisha FC secured their second win in Group D by beating the Kerala Blasters 2 – 0 in the Durand Cup here at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium on Tuesday.
They did not have it easy, however, against a resilient Blasters side who held them goalless till half-time through astute tactical defending. Odisha’s foreign recruits Diego Mauricio and Saul Pedro scored for the winners which would be a heartening sign for Spanish coach Josep Gombau.
With this win, Odisha goes on top of the Group D table with six points from two games, while Kerala has one point from the same number of matches.
Odisha FC started to dominate possession in the first half once they settled down, after a slow start to the game by both sides. The Blasters were compact, held their shape and defended well against the more experienced OFC side.
Wingbacks Shubham Sarangi and Thoiba Singh Moirangthem played high up the pitch and made frequent runs through the flanks creating problems for the Blaster’s defence. The first chance fell to Jerry, who twice in the previous game, but his shot was straight at the Blasters keeper Sachin Suresh, who did well and had quite a lot to do.
The best chance of the half came to Issac Vanmalsawma, but his finish was wayward. Nandhakumar Sekar and Jerry also threatened regularly down the flanks, but the Kerala defence stood firm.
The Blasters started the second half in a lively manner, but Odisha started to control the game and created better chances. The forward line linked up well and created pressure inside the Blasters box.
Second-half substitute Diego Mauricio then made an immediate impact after he ran behind the Blasters defence line and passed right. Issac Vanmalsawma met the ball right about at the centre of the box and finished smoothly for Odisha’s first of the game.
The attacks and chances continued to come and the second goal came from a scramble inside the Blaster’s penalty box off a corner taken by Jerry. The ball was headed on target by Australian Osama Malik, yet another second-half sub and the rebound from the defender was latched on to by Saul Pedro, who tapped in to double the advantage.
The young Blasters could not stitch any meaningful attacks, enough to trouble the Odisha’s defence, but even then their performance was commendable against an Odisha side who were coming into the game, having scored six in their previous encounter.
Odisha will next face Sudeva Delhi FC on August 29 and Kerala Blasters will play Army Green Football Team on August 31.