Odisha FC finally registered their first win of the 2020-21 season of Indian Super League (ISL) as they beat Kerala Blasters 4-2 at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim. Jeakson Singh (22') scored an own goal while Steven Taylor (42') poked the ball into the back of the net in the first half. Diego Mauricio (50', 60') sealed the Kerala Blasters' fate with two thunderous strikes in the second half.
After suffering a hamstring injury, Manuel Onwu was pulled out of the starting line-up at the last moment. As a result, Odisha FC coach Stuart Baxter was forced to change his formation.
Speaking to the media after the match, the former South African national team coach said:
"(The monkey was) turning into a gorilla. It's nice to get it off the shoulders. We changed the way we were going to play. We had Jacob (Tratt) at the right-back, Daniel (Lalhlimpuia) having to get in immediately before kick-off because Manuel (Onwu) had a little bit of stretch. Gaurav (Bora) played as a centre-back.
"We had two central midfielders instead of three. So much could go wrong. From giving away a goal to coming back and totally dominating the next 75 minutes of the game, I think it was an awesome performance," he added.
Before taking on the mantle of Odisha FC head coach, Stuart Baxter managed 16 different sides in his 35-year coaching career. His tenure at Odisha FC has seen a difficult start but the coach is positive that the latest result can bring about a change in the team's fortunes.
It is interesting to note that in 1995, the Great Hanshin Earthquake flattened the training facilities of Stuart Baxter's former club, Vissel Kobe. The British coach helped the Japanese team overcome the disaster and he is hoping to inspire Odisha FC to a similar comeback in the ISL this year.
"I told them before the game that I was in Kobe during the earthquake. We started the season with 11 defeats out of 12. The earthquake totally smashed our training facilities and left us with a very glum feeling. I don't see the glum feeling here, so I don't expect it to be 11 games. But, once turned in, we went 11 games undefeated. That was a catalyst. I am hoping that this (win over Kerala Blasters) will be a catalyst too," Stuart Baxter revealed.
The minimum expectation is every player gives everything that he gets: Odisha FC coach Stuart Baxter
Despite the win, Odisha FC are still languishing at the bottom of the ISL points table, with just 5 points from 9 matches. However, Stuart Baxter isn't concerned about where his team finishes at the end of the season. Rather, he expects them to give their best on the field.
"The minimum expectation from me is that every player gives everything he gets in every situation. Then, at the end of the season, we will see if that leads us to the fourth place or the tenth place or whatever. If they do that, I will be proud of them," Stuart Baxter concluded.
Odisha FC cannot afford to rest after their first victory of the campaign. The team have two days to regroup before they take on Chennaiyin FC in their next ISL encounter on Sunday.Published 08 Jan 2021, 10:00 IST