ISL: Kerala Blasters, Odisha to play for pride

After its play-offs hopes were crushed when Chennaiyin FC booked the fourth spot, Odisha FC will look to battle for pride when it hosts Kerala Blasters FC on Sunday.

SPORTZPICS/ISL

Manuel Onwu (centre) has been a revelation for Odisha since his loan move from Bengaluru FC.

Odisha FC will look to end its league season on a winning note when it hosts Kerala Blasters FC at the Kalinga Stadium on Sunday.

The home side’s hopes of making it to the play-offs ended on Saturday when Chennaiyin FC piped Mumbai City FC to finish fourth.

Josep Gombau has been proud of the performance from his players throughout the season as he reckons they have improved.

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“For a young team, for a new team which has just moved to the city, it is good enough to finish fifth, " he said. "[This is] just the beginning of a very good project. In the next season, the fields will be better, along with the training grounds. The young players will be more experienced."

Manuel Onwu has been a revelation for Odisha since his loan move from Bengaluru FC. The forward has netted four goals in three outings as opposed to none in over 370 minutes with the Blues.

Meanwhile, Kerala Blasters did not have a memorable campaign either. Injuries hampered its season with every foreign signing of the club spending sometime on the sidelines. Sandesh Jhingan was ruled out at the start of the season, which didn’t help its cause either.

Coach Eelco Schattorie was forced to change his starting eleven in almost every match and it was difficult for Kerala to get on a consistent run of positive results given the constant chopping and changing.

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“This season, we are going to play game number 18 tomorrow and 17 times I had to change the team - not because I want to change but because I had to,” said the Dutchman. “In the end, we played some very good games. Many teams, after the games, complimented us for the way we played against them. But to really win and have a little bit of luck also, you need to be consistent by playing with the same group for at least 70-to-80 per cent of the games with the same eleven,” he said.

Bartholomew Ogbeche has yet again shown his class with 13 goals from 15 matches. The onus will once again be on him to lead his troops and end the season on a winning note.

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