Odisha FC staged a resilient comeback to register a 1-1 draw against Hyderabad FC in their 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) encounter on Tuesday.
It was a game of two halves at the Fatorda Stadium in Margao as Hyderabad FC dominated proceedings in the first 45 minutes. Halicharan Narzary gave the Nizams the lead in the 13th minute through a perfectly placed shot.
However, Odisha FC looked a completely different side after the break. In the 51st minute, Cole Alexander restored parity after receiving a pass from Diego Mauricio.
"I thought we started the game very well. I think they were surprised that we pressed them so high. But when they started to get the ball into wide areas and stretched us, we struggled in the flanks, especially when they made it two versus one. We struggled to get support from our wide players," said Odisha FC coach Stuart Baxter.
"We changed the way we pressed at the front in the second half. And, as soon as we lost the ball, we reset ourselves better. They didn't have the joy from the first half. I think our attacking play was very good," he further added.
Odisha FC controlled the tempo of the game in the second half. However, Daniel Lalhlimpuia and Jerry Mawihmingthanga missed some gilt-edged chances to give them the lead.
"I think we could have very easily won the game. If you get yourselves through periods like first half, you have to get through eventually. The back-four was a whole completely new back four. Steven Taylor had to pull out. (Mohammed) Sajid (Dhot) made his first appearance. Jacob (Tratt) made his way back as a center back. We had Rakesh (Pradhan) in the left back position. (Gaurav) Bora was bouncing back from what was a disappointing performance in the last game. It was a very big ask against one of the best teams in the league. I asked the players to just give 10% more, not 100% more, but just 10% more in everything. And, they gave it. We could have and should have won the game," Baxter further added.
We need to look at the next game and not start thinking about playoffs: Odisha FC coach Stuart Baxter
Odisha FC currently find themselves stranded at the bottom of the ISL points table. The Bhubaneswar-based side have just seven points from 12 games and are 10 points adrift of the final playoff spot, with only eight matches remaining.
Speaking on Odisha FC's chances of making it to the knockout stages of the competition, Baxter said:
"We have such a long way to go. If I start thinking about playoffs based on where we are now, then I am going to do a total disservice on the players. We need to look at the next game. We need to play better than what we did tonight. We need to win a couple of games. And then at the end of the season, if we are anywhere near to it, then we can make a stride for it. At the moment, let's just keep playing and win a couple of games."
Odisha FC's next ISL game is against Bengaluru FC on Sunday. The Kalinga Warriors lost the corresponding fixture 1-2.