Former Indian Super League champions Hyderabad FC began their Super Cup campaign with a 2-1 win over Aizawl FC in a Group B clash at the Payannad Stadium in Manjeri on Sunday.

Hyderabad FC head coach Manolo Marquez decided to rest a few of the seasoned campaigners, including leading goalscorer, Bartholomew Ogbeche and offered opportunities to those who didn’t get much game time during the ISL early this season.

On the other hand, former I-League champions, Aizawl FC, who qualified for the group stages of the competition after defeating TRAU FC in the qualifier, looked a determined lot, willing to put up an even fight.

After initial exchanges, Hyderabad FC, who held the upper hand, broke the deadlock with a counter-attack in the 17th minute. It all started when Aizawl FC failed to capitalise on a corner kick and the ball was cleared by Hyderabad defence. Winger Abdul Rabeeh, who received the ball, sprinted past the Aizawl defence and passed on to Australian midfielder Joel Joseph Chainese, who found Borja Gonzalez on the half-turn.

Borja smashed the ball towards the far post but the stretched hands of Aizawl FC goalkeeper Vanal Hriatpuia saved the initial effort only to see Chainese scoring from the rebound to make it 1-0.

Aizawl FC stepped up the attacks and for a brief period, they matched the Hyderabad side in ball possession. However, it didn’t help as the Aizawl boys failed to convert their efforts into goals.

After the change of ends, Hyderabad FC’s Brazilian midfielder Joao Victor, who came on as a substitute, made it 2-0 when he converted from the penalty spot in the 50th minute.

Van Veras pulled one back for the I-League side deep into the added time of the second half with a well-taken long-ranger in what was the last attacking chance for either team in the match.

East Bengal and Odisha FC play out draw

East Bengal and Odisha FC played out a 1-1 draw in their first game of the Super Cup 2023 on Sunday at the Payyanad Stadium in Manjeri.

With the points shared, the two sides have one point each in Group B, below Hyderabad FC, who defeated Aizawl FC earlier in the day.

Star forward Diego Mauricio was on the front foot for Odisha right from the beginning of the game. The Brazilian initiated several threatening moves to put Odisha in the lead. He did make a few inroads, but was caught offside three times in the first 15 minutes.

On the other hand, East Bengal were rather quiet as far as attacks were concerned, having recorded just a solitary attempt on the rival goal in the first half. That attempt however, did lead to a goal.

East Bengal took the lead in the 38th minute when Odisha defender Narender Gahlot gave the ball away in the danger zone, leaving East Bengal’s Mobashir Rahman in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper. The 25-year-old finished it off style with a curling shot that went in off the post.

After the breather, Stephen Constantine’s East Bengal looked to take control of the game, with Jake Jervis coming twice close to scoring. The Englishman’s best chance came in the 50th minute, when he found a breakthrough and had only Amrinder Singh at his disposal. But the Indian national football team custodian stayed strong and saved the winger’s grounded attempt.

In the 72nd minute, Odisha found the breakthrough they needed. Diego Mauricio managed to dribble past the ever-present Athul Unnikrishnan from the left flank and passed it on to Nandha Kumar at the edge of the box. Nandha coolly slotted the ball in to make it 1-1 and bring his team back into the game.

Next up, East Bengal face Aizawl FC on April 17, while Odisha take on table-toppers Hyderabad on the same day in Manjeri.