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IANS

Odisha FC became the only team to end the group stages of the 131st IndianOil Durand Cup with an all-win record after they overcame the Army Green Football Team (AGFT) 1-0 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium here on Sunday.

Pedro Martin scored for the winner in the 83rd minute of the game. Odisha FC thus finished Group D with 12 points from four games and headed to Kolkata for the knockouts. Kerala Blasters were the second team to make it through from the group with seven points and two wins. AGFT finished third with four points from as many games.

The Odisha FC-AGFT game also brought the curtains down on the Guwahati leg of the tournament where all 10 Group D matches were held. It was the first time Assam had hosted the IndianOil Durand Cup.

AGFT coach Robikanta Singh displayed immense respect for the Odisha line-up, going in with a 4-5-1 formation while Odisha FC gaffer Josep Gombau was clear that he wanted to go for a win, fielding an attacking 4-3-3, with Nandhakumar, Jerry and Diego Mauricio upfront to begin with.

It did not quite go according to plan in the first half for Odisha FC though. They got their first chance in the 14th minute of the game after Raynier took a shot from a Mauricio cut-back, but it was off-target. He took another crack in the 35th but was thwarted yet again.

In fact in the goalless first half, AGFT had two bright chances themselves. First, when Roel Lepcha took a crack from distance in the 27th and then just seconds before the half-time whistle, Gautam drove in for a snap-shot on goal. Dylan in the Odisha FC goal brought off saves on both those occasions to ensure honours were even at the break.

Gombau was having none of it. He brought on Paul and Soosairaj at half-time and later got in Isak and finally Pedro Martin, to try and force the issue.

It finally paid dividends as Soosaira' found Martin's run in the 83rd minute with a defense-splitting pass and the Spaniard finished clinically past the keeper to break the deadlock.

Indian Super League (ISL) champions were on a roll after that. Isak got a similar great through ball from Paul two minutes later but his shot evaded both the keeper and the right upright of the AGFT goal. Then in the final minute of the game, a Soosairaj curler was heading towards goal but Gagandeep brought off a super save to deny him.

In the end, it was a win by a solitary goal for Odisha FC.

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