Diego Mauricio scored three goals to help Odisha FC win 3-1 against Gokulam Kerala FC in the Club Playoffs. His goals came in the 18th, 31st, and 53rd minute through a penalty. The win secured Odisha FC’s spot in the AFC Cup 2023-24 Group Stage. Odisha FC finished sixth in the Indian Super League (ISL) but had an outstanding two weeks at the end of the season. They won the Super Cup and put a continental cherry on top of a brilliant cake by qualifying for Asian competition.
Odisha FC dominated the game right from the start. They were quicker on the ball and even more authoritative without it. Gokulam Kerala FC played most of the game as a counter-attacking unit. They had the first chance through a Thahir Zaman corner, but Aminou Bouba put his header high and wide. In the 18th minute, Nandha Kumar dummied with a seemingly innocuous throw-in on the left touchline. Victor Romero spun, and Diego Mauricio was through one-on-one. He finished to notch his 20th goal in all competitions and give Odisha the lead.
Mauricio, Mawihmingthanga, and Romero combined to create a host of opportunities and keep the Gokulam defence on their toes. In the 31st minute, Mauricio got his second goal, dribbling but also bulldozing his way through Gokulam’s left side to double the lead. Gokulam woke up and roused themselves from their inept slumber into something resembling passing football. When the goal arrived in the 36th minute, it came off the head of Farshad Noor, Zaman doing all the work on the right before delivering a perfect cross home.
Pawan Kumar needlessly tugged on and brought down Diego Mauricio on the edge of the box in the 52nd minute, giving Odisha a penalty and a chance to restore their two-goal cushion. Mauricio didn’t miss it. His 22nd goal of the season was enough for Odisha to regain momentum and see the game out. Odisha FC will debut in Asia now after an April filled with joy.