Quick learners make for bona fide champions as Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera’s call for greater defensive discipline resulted in his team edging past NorthEast United FC by 1-0 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 tonight.
“We need to try to find the balance between attack and defence. We are scoring a lot of goals, but we are also conceding a lot of goals. I like to play attacking football, but we need to find balance when we lose the ball because we are conceding goals,” Lobera had said in the press conference before this game, thus refusing to take solace with his side’s 3-2 comeback victory against Bengaluru FC.
That call seemed to resonate with his team as the Juggernauts rounded off only their second clean sheet of the season, which is uncharacteristic with Lobera’s teams who have conceded only 1.23 goals per game on an average in the 85 games that he has coached in the ISL.
Spearheaded by the centre-back duo of Narender Gahlot and Carlos Delgado, Odisha restricted NorthEast into taking only three shots on target in the game. The home team’s midfield duo of Ahmed Jahouh and Lalthathanga Khawlhring guarded the backline to perfection, with the former controlling the tempo of the proceedings with his diligent defensive efforts and passing range moving forward.
As Odisha held its defence together, Brazilian striker Diego Maurcio kept pressing higher up on the field to build pressure on NorthEast United FC. Mirshad Michu denied Mauricio in the 26th minute, but the latter didn’t give up. He, in fact, compelled Michu into misplacing a pass that the forward conveniently collected and shot past the goalkeeper to hand Odisha the lead in the 37th minute.
NorthEast United FC star Parthib Gogoi produced a remarkable effort that nearly drew scores level in the 57th minute. One of his shots was blocked inside the box, but he withdrew a little bit and shot strongly on target, only to be warded off by a fully stretched Amrinder Singh.
Amrinder thus inched closer to his counterpart Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who has the most clean sheets for a goalkeeper in the ISL (40), just one more than the Odisha FC custodian (39).
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