Odisha FC continue fight for a playoff berth after a 2-1 win over a depleted NorthEast United at the Kalinga Stadium in Odisha on Friday evening.
Manuel Onwu (47') stole the limelight with a goal and an assist for Martin Guedes (72') after, Marti Chaves (24') put his side ahead in the first half.
Josep Gomabu made a single change to the side that surrendered 3-1 to ATK with Martin Guedes coming in to replace Jerry Mawihmingthanga.
Whereas, NorthEast United's interim head coach Khalid Jamil was forced to make four changes from the previous match. He fielded an all-Indian backline with Rakesh Pradhan, Reagan Singh, Nim Dorjee and Wayne Vaz taking up the responsibility to shield Subhasish Roy Chowdhury. Milan Singh came in place of Lalengmawia in midfield while Andre Keogh, Federico Gallego and Redeem Tlang led the attack.
It was a feisty first-half as five players were cautioned in the opening 45 minutes. Some niggling challenges and Tlang, already on a yellow, was lucky to stay on the pitch even after a two-footed challenge on Xisco Hernandez.
Both teams created some half-chances but could not carve out any significant goal scoring opportunity from open play. In the 18th minute, Hernandez got a sight of goal but Roy Chowdhury parried his effort away for a corner.
Six minutes later, the deadlock was broken when Gallego quickly taken lobbed free-kick, found Martin Chaves at the edge of the box. The Uruguayan shook off a feeble resistance from Subham Sarangi and nutmegged Arshdeep Singh to score his first of the season.
Around the half-hour mark, Sarangi tried to make amends after latching on to a cross from Guedes but could only find the side-netting.
Minutes before the break Ownu was brought down inside the box by Vaz but the referee was not convinced enough to award a penalty.
Gombau needed to shake things up at half-time and the manager did so by bringing on Daniel Lalhlimpuia and Jerry to replace Sarangi and Vinit Rai.
The change in tactics saw three at the back, with Perez operating more centrally and Jerry slotting in at the right flank. This tweak worked wonders for the hosts and they scored within 70 seconds of resumption.
Nandha Kumar crossed in from the left flank inside the six-yard box and Onwu popped up at the right place to direct it home.
Odisha were on the ascendance and in the 56th minute, they could have taken the lead when Jerry floated in another brilliant cross but somehow, both his forwards could not poke the ball home.
Against the run of play, the Highlanders could have surged ahead but for some brave goalkeeping from Arshdeep. Chaves drilled in a low cross for Ninthoi, whose poor control let him down. Tlang stretched every muscle of his body to get to the free ball but the former Punjab FC keeper dived to get to it first.
The ISL debutants were finally rewarded for their persistence when Guedes fired them forward with his first goal at the Kalinga. Onwu headed a corner towards the far post and the Argentine squeezed it from a tight angle to send the crowd to a frenzy.
Jamil threw in Simon Lundevall to add more thrust in attack and NorthEast did start to look more threatening in the final third. Ninthoi almost tore down the entire defense with a solo run down the centre but shot straight at the keeper, much to his disappointment.