AFC Cup: Fall's goal helps Odisha beat Bashundhara Kings, qualify for playoffs

Odisha FC's Mourtada Fall celebrates with teammates after scoring against Bashundhara Kings. Odisha FC

Odisha FC qualified for the knockout stages of the AFC Cup in their first ever appearance in the competition as Mourtada Fall's second half header gave them a 1-0 win over Bashundhara Kings at the Kalinga Stadium.

Sergio Lobera's side dominated proceedings throughout, but the pivotal moment came right at the end of the first half, when Asror Gafurov was shown a red card for a tackle on Odisha midfielder Ahmed Jahouh.

It was a questionable call from the match officials, and it had the Kings' bench incensed, with their coach Oscar Bruzon getting booked for dissent as well.Until then, Odisha had much of the possession, but very little to show for it. They had five shots in the first half, but none on target.

As the first half wore on, Lobera's side grew increasingly anxious and impatient, and that reflected in their decision-making.

However, that changed just past the hour mark, as Jahouh's corner found Fall, whose header was perfectly placed past goalkeeper Mehedi Srabon, who had until then played superb game for the Kings.

Odisha had their chances to increase the lead, but Srabon denied both Mauricio and Roy Krishna from close range. Amrinder Singh's goal, though, were barely troubled throughout the second half, as the Kings struggled to make any play while being a man down.

Eventually, Odisha finished top of Group D with 12 points from 6 games, two points ahead of the Bashundhara Kings.

This result capped a remarkable turnaround for them, after having lost their first two games in the group to Mohun Bagan Super Giant and the Kings themselves. They will be back on the continental stage in the new year to play knockout football, as Lobera added another feather to his cap as one of the best coaches to have graced Indian Football.

Relive all the action between Odisha FC and Bashundhara Kings as it happens on ESPN India's live blog here:

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