ISL: Odisha FC knock Kerala Blasters out, through to maiden semifinals

Diego Mauricio and Roy Krishna of Odisha FC celebrate the goal against KBFC at the ISL Knockout game today. Photo: Special arrangement.

Bhubaneswar: Odisha FC qualified for the semifinals of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 by beating Kerala Blasters FC by 2-1 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar tonight. Accordingly, the Juggernauts have won their first-ever ISL playoffs game and thus made it to the semifinals for the first time in the competition’s history.

They will now be competing against the Mohun Bagan Super Giant across two legs in the last-four clash for a place in the ISL final. In a gripping encounter spanning across 120 minutes, the Juggernauts prevailed at their home turf despite trailing first in the game. Lithuanian striker Fedor Cernych netted in the 67th minute, before Diego Mauricio and Isak Vanlalruatfela scored once each in the 87th and 97th minutes respectively to drag Odisha FC back into the game and storm them into the semifinals.

KBFC players celebrates as Fedor Cernych scores a goal against OFC at the ISL knockouts on Friday
KBFC players celebrates as Fedor Cernych scores a goal against OFC at the ISL knockouts on Friday

Kerala Blasters FC had come across plenty of scoring opportunities before they finally broke the deadlock. Though they secured the first lead in the game, it is inarguable that the Yellow Army squandered several chances in front of the goal in the build-up to Cernych’s strike.

As the game progressed, Odisha FC began pushing forward to find breakthroughs themselves, leaving spaces open in their backline for the Kochi-based team to exploit upon. They did exactly that, embarking on a fast strike with the help of Mohammed Aimen, who collected the ball a few yards outside of the box and delivered it for an onrushing Cernych. The striker shot the ball into the back of the net, getting the visitors a foot ahead in the match.

Odisha FC replied with a couple of goals, and incidentally both of them were starkly incidental in nature. Roy Krishna assisted both of them, squaring up passes from the right side of the box. With long balls coming from near the midline, Krishna picked them up and laid it for Mauricio and Isak who tapped them in similarly. In the 87th minute, Krishna got behind the Kerala Blasters FC defensive line and laid out a pass for Mauricio that he scored to equalise the game. Ten minutes later, Isak showed similar accuracy from the very same position in close range to score and help Odisha FC progress further in the tournament.

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