Hero Super Cup
Nandha Kumar's scoring boots scripting history for Odisha FC
23 Apr 2023

Spreading the beautiful game across different regions of the country is one of the key objectives in Vision 2047, and the Federation’s plan to host the Hero Super Cup in Kerala, where both Hero ISL and Hero I-League teams will come together, is part of it. the-aiff.com is currently in Malappuram and Kozhikode and is following the progress of the clubs in the Hero Super Cup closely in a series of stories.

Akhil Rawat
AIFF Media Team

MANJERI: Just over an hour into the second semi-final of the Hero Super Cup at the Payyanad Stadium, Odisha FC and NorthEast United FC were locked at 1-1 when Nandha Kumar probed into the latter's penalty area from the left wing. With a well-weighted pass, he picked out Víctor Rodríguez, who deftly backheeled the ball back to Nandha. The 27-year-old didn't have to break stride and side-footed it first time. Off the underside of the crossbar and into the net it went. What a beauty.

It was Nandha Kumar's second goal of the night and fourth in as many matches in the Hero Super Cup. He was named the Hero of the Match for this sensational goal and a first-half header, which was an absolute poacher's finish. Another clinical night from Nandha secured a historic win for Odisha, who are now just one step away from winning their first-ever silverware.

"It was a very tough game. We conceded an early goal, but everyone gave their hundred percent, and we were able to make the comeback," said Nandha.

Odisha have had a thing for comebacks recently in the Hero Super Cup. In their last group-stage game, they overturned a one-goal deficit at half-time to defeat Hyderabad FC 2-1 and qualify for the semi-finals. Also, in their opening match, Nandha's second-half equaliser earned them a valuable point against East Bengal FC.

The Tamil Nadu-born winger has been part of Odisha FC since their very first Hero ISL season in 2019-20 and is well aware of just how important a first trophy could be for the club. "It will be historical for Odisha FC. Everyone has been waiting for this moment - reaching the final and winning the cup. The club, management and the players are very happy," he said.

The Bhubaneswar outfit qualified for the Hero ISL play-offs for the first time this season, with Nandha Kumar playing a big role in his side's sixth-place finish. He was the club's second-highest scorer with six goals, behind Golden Boot winner Diego Maurício, who netted 12. With four in the Hero Super Cup and one in the Durand Cup last year, Nandha's tally is now at 11, marking his best-ever scoring season.

"I'm so happy about my scoring form. I'm getting help from my teammates to score goals, and I help the team to win games with my goals," said the grateful 27-year-old.

The current season has set forth that the Odisha FC attack isn't just about their Brazilian striker Maurício. Apart from Nandha, the fine form of Víctor and Jerry Mawihmingthanga have made the Odisha offence a well-oiled unit in the Super Cup. Now, Nandha's only focus is to recreate more magic in the final on April 25 against Bengaluru FC.

"It's going to be a very tough game because Bengaluru have already played two finals this season - Durand Cup and ISL. They've had a great year. Now, we have to keep our heads down, take rest, and recover well. We do have a game plan for them. We will focus on continuing our winning ways."

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