Odisha FC beat Gokulam Kerala FC 3-1 in the Club Playoffs to seal a spot in the AFC Cup 2023-24 Group Stage on Saturday. The result has given the team, who finished sixth in the Indian Super League, a spot in Asian competition, on the back of an outstanding two weeks at the end of the season.
Their star player Diego Mauricio scored a hat-trick to help Odisha FC secure the win.
The Juggernauts had qualified for the playoff match by winning the recently concluded Super Cup, while Gokulam Kerala were playing in the match as winners of the 2021-22 I-League.
But the Odisha team, fresh off winning their first ever piece of silverware, was in-form, and broke the deadlock in the 18th minute. From a seemingly innocuous throw-in on the left touchline, Nandha Kumar dummied, Victor Romero spun and Diego Mauricio was through one-on-one. The Brazilian finished to notch his 20th goal in all competitions and give Odisha the lead.
In the 31st minute, Mauricio got his second, dribbling but also bulldozing his way through Gokulam’s left side to double the lead.
Farshad Noor pulled one back five minutes later after he headed home a perfect cross from Thahir Zaman.
In the second half, Pawan Kumar needlessly tugged on and brought down Diego Mauricio just inside the box in the 52nd minute, giving Odisha a penalty and a chance to restore their two-goal cushion. Mauricio slotted him his 22nd goal of the season and secure the win for his team.