Hyderabad FC have started life under Manuel Marquez Roca rather well. They won 1-0, courtesy a 34th minute Aridane Santana penalty, and dominated Stuart Baxter's Odisha FC for large parts. This was Hyderabad's first clean sheet, having failed to keep one last season.
Hyderabad's first chance came as early as the fifth minute, Aridane putting a free header wide from five yards out, but as the half wore on, their superior ball retention and attacking nous came to the fore. Just past the half hour mark, Halicharan Narzary shot at goal, which was blocked by the arm of a sliding Steven Taylor inside the box. A mistake from the veteran, and the referee had no hesitation to whistle for a penalty.
Aridane made no mistake, smashing it down the middle. He had another shot soon after that went wide, before a lovely curler from Narzary was palmed away by Arshdeep Singh in the Odisha goal. Hyderabad went into the halftime break comfortably on top.
Unlike their previous season under Josep Gombau, Odisha seemed to lack a clear shape or sense of identity. Manuel Onwu was relegated to the left flank and looked far from the effective striker the league had seen in the latter half of last season. Marcelinho was barely on the ball, and was substituted in the 53rd minute, a statement from Baxter and an indication of his ineffectiveness on the night. There was no attacking impetus or coherence in their forward play all night, with Subrata Paul in the Hyderabad goal barely having a save to make.
"The first game, the boys worked very hard but we are disappointed with the result," said Baxter after the match.
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The introduction of Liston Colaco just past the hour mark shifted the game even further towards Hyderabad. The young forward ran with pace and intent at a tiring Odisha backline and caused problems. He won foul after foul, a turn on the halfway line epitomizing the impact he had.
Hyderabad had another late chance to double their lead, Narzary turning Danmawia's sublime cross just wide of Arshdeep's near post. It was not to be, but it was a solid start for Roca and one which showed Baxter the extent of the task ahead of him.