Friday, March 31, 2023

Odisha’s playoff hope uncertain with loss to JFC

Odisha FC slumped to a startling 0-2 home defeat against Jamshedpur FC in their final league match of the ISL 2022-23 season on Wednesday with a cloud of uncertainty now enveloping their playoff hopes. Despite the buzzing home crowd at Kalinga Stadium, the hosts put up an abysmal performance, allowing JFC to score twice in the second half.
Right from the build-up to the game, the equation was crystal clear for the Juggernauts – bag a win or at least a draw to secure their first-ever playoff berth. On paper, this should’ve been plain sailing for the hosts.
However, the first half was drastically anti-climatic as Josep Gombau’s men opted for a largely cautious approach. The visitors benefitted from OFC’s lackluster performance and created some neat opportunities to pull ahead. In the 25th minute, Jamshedpur arguably had the best chance of the match when Harry Sawyer was set through on goal. The Australian forward, however, was unable to beat an outstretched Amrinder Singh. Minutes later, Daniel Chima Chukwu came close to breaking the deadlock from a stunning pass by debutant Nikhil Barla from the right wing. But the Nigerian marksman’s half-volley was blocked away by an Odisha defender. Inching closer to the half-time break, Chima had another opportunity to score but then Narender Gahlot stepped in with a last-ditch block.
For the visitors, Isak Vanlalruatfela was the most potent attacking option throughout the wide areas.
However, coming out after the half-time break, Josep Gombau opted for fresh legs and made wholesale changes and even Isak was taken off to introduce Jerry Mawihmingthanga. Despite the changes, Odisha seemed a little overwhelmed and startled by the occasion. Still, they did fairly well to maintain parity. But right at the hour mark, the Juggernauts were left stunned. Aided by a couple of nervous defensive lapses, Daniel Chima Chukwu received the ball inside the box from wide. The Nigerian forward lobbed a looping cross into the center and Harry Sawyer buried it home with an acrobatic header. In a match that was set to be a celebratory affair, Odisha were left trailing. Jamshedpur were hungry and further piled on the hosts’ misery. Sawyer turned provider as his through ball into the box was expertly finished by the in-form Ritwik Das. Down to goals in just a matter of minutes, there was no coming back even for a side that had established itself to be one of the most resilient in the league after falling behind.
The night for OFC was perfectly summed up by an astonishing miss from their top scorer and current Golden Boot holder Diego Mauricio in the 83rd minute. Substitute Aniket Jadhav drilled a neat cross into the box and all the Brazilian had to do was sort out his feet and hit the target. Yet, he faltered.


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