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Impressive second-half response gives Odisha hope

Diego Mauricio was the star for Stuart Baxter’s team…

Jamshedpur and Odisha lost their respective opening games of the season and badly wanted to make an impact in their second game on Sunday. 

They were up against each other in the second round of the 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) and the fixture produced two distinct halves of football. 

It was Jamshedpur who looked solid right from the off. Owen Coyle’s team made use of the width of the pitch to good effect and worked the ball well in midfield to claim early dominance in the match. 

The Odisha defence, led by former Newcastle United man Steven Taylor looked shaky with 2019-20 ISL Golden Boot winner Nerijus Valskis waiting pounce in and around the box. 

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Eleven minutes into the game, Odisha made a mess of a cross into the box and put their goalkeeper TP Rehenesh under pressure. While the first attempt on target was blocked, the rebound which was sent towards goal was blocked by Gaurav Bora with his hand. Valskis gleefully slotted the ball past the former Kerala Blasters keeper to score his second goal in as many games, 

Odisha’s defence succumbed to pressure again before the end of the half. All Shubham Sarangi had to do was clear the ball if he was unsure in the defensive third. But the attacker’s instinct in him forced to head the ball back towards his goal and unfortunately, there wasn’t enough power in his pass. Valskis pounced, like a true fox in the box, and lashed at the ball to send it past a helpless Rehenesh once again. 

It was argued that Odisha head coach Stuart Baxter made a mistake in playing Manuel Onwu out wide in their season opener. Onwu lead the line on Sunday and was only marginally better. He had one golden chance that he couldnt put away and 15 minutes after the restart, Baxter made his move. The former Bengaluru striker was replaced by Diego Mauricio who brought much-needed flair to Odisha’s attack. 

Odisha grew into the game more as the second half progressed. By the 75th minute, Jamshedpur were facing an onslaught and Coyle’s changes – bringing on Isaac Vanmalsawma and Amarjit Singh – did little to influence the game. 

Rehenesh’s best and worst moments in the game were only 13 minutes apart. After producing a brilliant stop to deny Steven Taylor from close range at the hour-mark, the Malayali keeper handled the ball outside the box and received his marching orders. By then, a comeback was on the cards. 

And it came in style. an Odisha free-kick hit the post and the rebound made its way into the path of Maurico who smashed the ball home from inside the box in the 77th minute. The equaliser arrived in stoppage time. 

Mauricio picked the ball up from the left flank, shifted the ball to his right foot and hit a stunning effort that was destined for the top corner from the second it left the Brazilian’s boot. 

Baxter will be pleased by the attitude of his team in the second half. There was spirit and fight in the display which is a positive to build on going into the next gme. Jamshedpur, once they recover fron this fixture which will hit them like a loss, will need to work on how to to manage games in a better way. 

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