Hyderabad FC came from behind to hold East Bengal FC 3-3 in a high-scoring Group B match while Odisha FC notched a comfortable 3-0 win over Aizawl FC in the Super Cup at the Payyanad stadium, Manjeri, on Thursday.
After two matches, Hyderabad and Odisha now have four points, while East Bengal have two with Aizawl yet to win a point.
East Bengal Head Coach Stephen Constantine was well aware of the fact that winning maximum points from this tie would keep their hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals from this group alive.
The former Indian men’s national team head coach chose to start the match with an unchanged side, which faced Odisha FC in their previous outing.
On the other hand, Hyderabad head coach Manolo Marquez preferred to bring in a few changes from the team that faced Aizawl FC in their opening Group B clash. Experienced India international Akash Mishra, captain Joao Victor, and Rohit Danu figured in the starting eleven.
East Bengal took the lead within the first few minutes of the match through one of their most consistent performers, Naorem Mahesh Singh. The Hyderabad FC defence was caught napping when Cleiton Silva played a forward pass down the middle to find Naorem Mahesh with only Hyderabad FC goalkeeper Gurmeet to beat.
Mahesh rounded off Gurmeet to put the ball in an open net to make it 1-0. Hyderabad FC responded back with a goal from Javier Siverio to make it 1-1. When winger Halicharan Narzary received the ball on the left wing, East Bengal right back, Athul Unnikrishnan allowed the pacey winger to whip in a cross, which found forward Siverio inside the box, who headed in.
East Bengal kept knocking at Hyderabad FC’s goal and were rewarded for their perseverance when VP Suhair put the team from Kolkata ahead. It looked like East Bengal would cruise to victory when Naorem Mahesh Singh made it 3-1 just moments before half-time.
But Hyderabad FC came down all guns blazing in the second half as they knew dropping points would hamper their chances of qualifying for the knockout stage. Hyderabad’s second goal came when Borja Herrera Gonzalez collected a pass from the right wing a few metres outside the East Bengal penalty box and unleashed a piledriver, which should have been saved by Kamaljit Singh.
The East Bengal goalkeeper failed to carry the ball and Siverio scored from the rebound to make it 3-2 in the 71st minute. Substitute Abdul Rabeeh scored from a Narzary cross to make it 3-3 in the 83rd minute.
It was a tale of two halves between Aizawl and Odisha, as they were evenly matched in the first 45 minutes. Both sides shared more or less an equal amount of ball possession as well as goal-scoring chances.
The first chance fell to Odisha centre-back Narender Gahlot, who rose to head to goal from a corner kick in the 16th minute. However, he couldn’t keep his effort low and the ball flew onto the top of the net.
Chances flew at both ends, though, and just before the break, Odisha winger Isak Vanlalruatfela found himself in space with only Vanlalhriatpuia to beat. But the goalkeeper did well to parry his shot away and ensure they went into the break level.
The very first chance in the second half once again fell Isak’s way. The 21-year-old dribbled in from the left flank and went for an outrageous attempt from outside the box, the ball seemingly headed for the top corner. However, once again, it was Vanlalhriatpuia who came to Aizawl’s rescue to pull off a last-gasp save.
The resultant corner in the 47th minute brought the opener. A melee inside the box caused by the corner saw Diego Mauricio present at the right place to poke the ball home from close range and give Odisha the lead.
Odisha followed it up with another goal in the 55th minute. This time it was Victor Rodriguez who displayed great footwork inside the box to beat a defender and slot it home to double his side’s lead. Clifford Miranda’s men took complete charge of the game after that and kept hold of the majority of the ball possession.
In the second minute of stoppage time, substitute Nandha Kumar made it 3-0 to seal the win. Diego Mauricio’s fierce strike was stopped by Vanlalhriatpuia brilliantly, but the rebound fell to Nandha, who tapped it in.
The final group B matches on Monday will see Odisha and Hyderabad clash for the top spot while East Bengal will take on Aizawl.