Dropped points seem to be the only constant in Odisha’s season so far…
Neither Odisha nor Hyderabad should be happy with a point from what was an Indian Super League (ISL) game of two halves at the Fatorda Stadium on Tuesday.
Halicharan Narzary, who has gone from being a Kerala Blasters outcast to Hyderabad’s superstar, put the Nizams into the lead in the first half. Narzary, alongside Sunil Chhetri, is the joint Indian top scorer this season as it stands with four goals and he hasn’t been on penalty duty either.
13 of the 19 goals that Odisha have conceded this season have come in the first half and the trend of getting off to a terrible start continued.
Hyderabad were all over Odisha in the first half. Their football was fluid, eye-catching and expressive to a neutral’s eye and it looked like they would run away with the game. Odisha were threatened with every move they made and Arshdeep Singh had to get down and make important saves multiple times to keep the score 1-0 when they headed into the break.
Akash Mishra continued to impress at left-back with his runs and timely interceptions. Aridane Santana was exemplary as the target man and it was his knock-on from a goal kick that fed Narzary for his goal. Odisha’s defence was at sixes and sevens and had no answer to Hyderabad’s attacking brand of football.
But then the second half began. And it seemed like Manuel Marquez’ team suddenly forgot how to control the game. Diego Mauricio went from being ineffective to tormenting the Hyderabad defence with his physique, skill on the ball and off-the-ball movement.
The equaliser came from a throw-in. Diego cleverly laid the ball off for Cole Alexander who neatly struck a powerful effort into the net from the edge of the box to bring Odisha level.
From there on, it was all about Odisha’s fight. It was as if two halves from different football games were edited together to make a 90-minute compilation. Considering how Hyderabad started the game and how many chances they had to double their lead, Marquez will feel like they have dropped two crucial points.
Hyderabad are an extremely talented team and they have been a delight to watch at times on the field. But it takes a winning mentality to control games and finish them off when under pressure. That is something they will have to learn quickly as only nine points (three wins in a row!) separate teams from the third spot to the 10th.
Stuart Baxter’s Odisha are in a rut. They have lost eight matches, the most by a team this season and are rock bottom with just one win in 12 games. They need a miracle to get into the play-offs.