Diego Mauricio and Isak Vanlalruatfela scored a goal each as Odisha FC qualified for the semifinal of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 by beating Kerala Blasters FC 2-1 at the Kalinga Stadium here on Friday. Accordingly, the Juggernauts have won their first-ever ISL playoffs game and thus made it to the semifinal 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. ISL 2023–24 Playoffs: Chennaiyin FC Eye Semi-Finals Berth Against Arch-Rivals FC Goa.

In a gripping encounter spanning across 120 minutes, the Juggernauts prevailed on their home turf despite trailing first in the game. Lithuanian striker Fedor Cernych netted in the 67th minute before Mauricio and Vanlalruatfela scored once each in the 87th and 97th minutes respectively to drag Odisha FC back into the game and storm them into the semi-finals.

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. 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. 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 them for Mauricio and Isak who tapped them in similarly. Alejandro Sanchez Lopez of Gokulam Kerala FC Wins Best Player Award in I-League 2023-24, Finishes Season as Top Scorer with 19 Goals.

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.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Apr 20, 2024 09:18 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).