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Maharashtra kick off campaign with a 1-1 draw against host Odisha

Armash Ansari’s second-half goal was canceled out by a late Chandra Muduli stunner as host Odisha held Maharashtra to a 1-1 draw on the opening day fixture of Hero Santosh Trophy – Final Rounds.

Buoyed by a vocal crowd at the Capital Football Arena, host Odisha were the ones who started stronger, controlling not just possession, but also creating chances aplenty in an all-action first half. Marshaled by the steady presence of captain Rakesh Oram, Odisha forced Shivam Kiran Pednekar into multiple saves in the first half.

The display was enough for Maharashtra coach Steven Dias to not just lay into his team at the break but also change personnel in midfield. Dias brought on Kaustubh Ravindra at the beginning of the second period in place of Shrikant Molangiri. Molangiri was a last-minute addition to the Maharashtra team after Arif Shaikh had pulled out of the squad.

Ravindra immediately brought control into the Maharashtra midfield and soon enough they were creating more, despite remaining ineffective in the final third. In the 57th minute, Omkar Patil volleyed a cross low and hard into the box, from Ashley Koli’s switch, to cause panic in the Odisha defence. A bungled clearance fell kindly for Patil again, who this time composed himself to find Armansh Ansari. Ansari scored from close range to give Maharashtra the lead.

They had multiple chances to kill the game from there on, the most glaring of which fell to Rushikesh Patil in the 75th minute, the forward missing a clean header on goal from Koli’s cross. Odisha sensed that this was their moment to turn things around. And they did. A vocal crowd, dignitaries in attendance and even the ball boys joined into cheering the home team into an equaliser, as Odisha launched a late onslaught on the Maharashtra goal. It yielded reward soon, Chandra Muduli drawing a save from Pednekar, and then slamming the rebound into the roof of the net.

Maharashtra were suddenly just looking to survive. Pednekar was called into action multiple times in the final five minutes as Odisha kept plugging away. In the end, a draw seemed deserved.

For coach Salim Pathan it was a chance missed, and he admitted that if not for Pednekar’s heroics and some lackluster finishing the result could have been different. “I’m disappointed, I won’t lie,” he said. “If you don’t get three points after putting in such a commanding performance then it frustrates you. But I give it up to the boys for never letting their heads drop and getting a crucial point.”

FT: Maharashtra (Armash Ansari 57’) 1 – 1 Odisha (Chandra Muduli 83’)