ISL 2020-21: Stuart Baxter's Diego Mauricio gamble gets rich rewards for Odisha FC

Diego Mauricio scored a stunning equaliser in injury time. Faheem Hussain / Sportzpics for ISL

At the end of the 90, the score read Jamshedpur FC 2 - 2 Odisha FC. That, though, barely tells you the story of a rip-roaring, end-to-end affair that saw lots of attacking, ludicrous defending, a penalty, a comical red card, and a stunning 93rd minute equaliser.

ISL fixtures | Scores | Table | Stats | Transfers | Season preview

Jamshedpur FC, the designated home side, started much the stronger of the two -- an Isaac Vanmalsawma header flying just wide in the fourth minute after lovely play down their right flank. Sixty seconds later, Mohammad Mobashir sent a long-range curler fizzing past the same post, just wide once again.

The mounting pressure was leading to cracks developing (already) in the Odisha defence, and in the 12th minute, Jamshedpur won a penalty. After a corner was only semi-cleared, the ball was punted back in, and Stephen Eze's header was parried out nervously by Odisha keeper Kamaljit Singh. Nerijus Valskis pounced, and smacked a shot at goal, which was stopped by the hand of Gaurav Bora - not deliberate, but with his palm next to his face, it was handball. Valskis stepped up to take the spot kick and sent the keeper the other way as he rolled it to his left.

The second came just before the half-hour mark, a hopelessly underhit Shubham Sarangi backpass seized on by an alert Valskis and belted low and hard into the corner at the near post.

Jamshedpur looked reasonably confident as they went into the break, Owen Coyle's men dominant, passing the ball about comfortably and pulling Odisha's nervous defence hither and thither at will.

Stuart Baxter, though, must have given some team talk because Odisha were a changed outfit in the beginning of the second. Their midfield finally came to the party, Marcelinho seeing a lot more of the ball, Manuel Onwu exhibiting the kind of movement that made him such a hit at the club last season.

There were moments, like Onwu hitting a shot wide and high after running at the defence and into the box, but their best chance came on the hour mark. Onwu controlled a slightly wild cross with a superb touch and with an even better second bicycle-kicked it at goal, where TP Rehenesh pulled off an equally impressive save. From the resulting corner, a melee ensued and Nandhakumar Sekar was denied from five yards out by another superb save from Rehenesh.

- Indian Super League: Stream LIVE on ESPN+ (U.S. only)

It was at this point that Stuart Baxter took off Manuel Onwu for Diego Mauricio. With Onwu getting into the game and Mauricio so unimpressive last time around, it looked an inexplicable decision at the time. What were we to know?

Odisha kept pouring forward, and in the 74th minute, a moment of madness from Rehenesh gave them a leg up. Rushing out to stop Mauricio run through, he handled the ball outside the box and was -- after a brief discussion amongst the officials -- sent off.

Mauricio took the freekick, and smacked the inside of the post. But Jamshedpur failed to clear the rebound, and after a bit of pinball in the box, Mauricio himself was on hand to poke it in from close range.

The pressure ratcheted several notches after that went in but Jamshedpur looked like they would hold, and even had a couple of threatening moments on the corner.

Then, Diego Mauricio stepped up. Big time.

In the third minute of stoppage time, Mauricio picked the ball up near the left top corner of an extremely crowded box. A touch to get it out of his feet, another to send an absolute belter into the far top corner. The shot had everything, curl, whip, pace - the best goal we've seen so far this season to cap what was the most exciting game of the season so far.

Coyle will rue the fact that Jamshedpur couldn't kill the match when they were so dominant, but will take heart from how well his team played when all 11 of them were on the field. Baxter will be concerned by some of the defensive lapses in that first half, but if ever there was a result that could jumpstart a flailing campaign, it was this.

It may well act as the catalyst that the league needed to kick on from a rather sleepy start to the season. Well, we can hope.