East Bengal and Odisha FC played out a 1-1 draw in their first game of the Super Cup 2023, here at the Payyanad Stadium.
With the points shared, the two sides have one point each in Group B, below Hyderabad FC, who defeated Aizawl FC earlier on the day to log full points.
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. Interestingly, it proved to be a fruitful attempt as it ended up in the back of the net, separating the two sides.
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 hit the inside of the right post and gave his side a 1-0 lead against the run of play to some extent.
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.
Minutes later, VP Suhair found himself in a good space and decided to take a whip. However, the East Bengal substitute's shot from outside the box went over the bar. Skipper Cleiton Silva too came close to scoring in the 58th minute, but in the end, his attempt went off target.
With a couple of substitutions made, Clifford Miranda's Odisha found their lost rhythm and began marching forward. In the 62nd minute, Victor Rodriguez made Odisha's first attempt on target in the second half, but goalkeeper Kamaljit Singh made no mistake in parrying it away.
Finally, 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.
In the 85th minute, Jervis had the opportunity to win it for East Bengal. However, his grounder from close range was pushed away by Amrinder Singh and the ball ricocheted off the left post. Eventually, the referee blew his whistle for full-time and the two sides settled for a draw.
Next up, East Bengal face Aizawl FC on April 17, while Odisha take on table-toppers Hyderabad on the same day in Manjeri.