Odisha FC beat ten-man Bashundhara Kings 1-0 at the Kalinga stadium to advance to the Inter-Zone Semi-Final Playoff for the first time in their history.
Mourtada Fall’s 61st minute header secured victory for Odisha after Asror Gafurov’s sending off in first half injury time, with the win taking Odisha onto 12 points to see them leapfrog the side from Bangladesh and finish the group phase in pole position.
It was end-to-end stuff as Odisha FC started the game on a positive note, creating numerous chances throughout the right flank with Cy Goddard, Amey Ranawade, and Diego Mauricio.
Carlos Delgado missed the first real goal-scoring opportunity in the 28th minute when he missed the free header inside the box. The visitors also got their chance in the first half, but Miguel Figueira failed to use the dangerous set-piece just behind Odisha FC’s box when his left-footed shot went far away from Amrinder Singh.
The decisive moment took place when Asror Gafurov made a nasty challenge on Jahouh’s ankle in the additional minutes of the first half, which showed him a direct red card, causing his side to play with a man short.
The scoreline was at the level at halftime, but Odisha FC managed to break the deadlock in the 61st minute, edging past Bashundhara Kings’ 18-year-old goalkeeper Mehedi Hasan Srabon.
Ahmed Jahouh was pivotal again with his creative spark and sheer control of the game, which helped the hosts dominate the game. He was brilliant in corners, making numerous crossings that rattled the opponent’s defense several times.
Jahouh got a chance in the 92nd minute of the game, where he could easily seal the game in Odisha FC’s favor, but his attempt missed the target by inches.
In the second half, the biggest chance for the visitor came in the 55th minute, when their Brazilian striker Dori wasted an open chance as he failed to beat Amrinder in a one-on-one situation.
The Bangladeshi side got their final chance in the dying moments of the game, just before the final whistle, when Robinho’s free-kick went far away from the goalpost.
Odisha FC have showcased their character in every possible way, as they made a remarkable comeback in the group stage matches by winning the last four consecutive matches that amended their two opening match defeats.
Monday night’s result has been the biggest success for Odisha FC in continental events. The Juggernauts will now proceed to the AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semi-Final Playoff, being the only Indian team to be qualified.