Defending champions Gokulam Kerala FC will be up against former winners Eastern Sporting Union in the IWL semifinal at the TransStadia in Ahmedabad on Friday, May 19 at 8:30pm IST.
Having progressed from Group A as table-toppers with 19 points out of a possible 21, Gokulam Kerala edged Odisha FC on penalties after a nail-biting quarterfinal on Tuesday. The Malabarians found themselves a goal down after just two minutes but equalised through Roja Devi’s goal before half-time. In the shootout, goalkeeper Beatrice Ntiwaa Nketia saved all three of Odisha’s penalties to help Gokulam win 3-0.
Ahead of the crucial semifinal against Eastern Sporting Union, Gokulam Kerala head coach Anthony Andrews said, “I am extremely excited about tomorrow’s match. We have been working hard to reach this stage. It’s a very important game, and we are fully focused and prepared to give our best performance.”
Gokulam Kerala clinched last season’s IWL title in quite a convincing style, winning all 11 of their games. Now, they find themselves within two games of a successful title defence, but Andrews is in no mood to look past tomorrow.
“Eastern Sporting Union are a strong and passionate side, who have performed well in group stages and progressed to the semis. We expect a tough challenge from them. However, I believe in my team’s abilities and we have prepared a strategic plan to overcome them,” he said.
The 2016-17 champions, Eastern Sporting Union, finished fourth in Group B to set up a quarterfinal clash with Sports Odisha, which ended 1-1 after 90 minutes. Lourembam Ronibala Chanu’s side ran out 4-2 winners on penalties, with captain Irom Prameshwori Devi scoring the winning spot-kick.
Eastern Sporting Union last reached the IWL final five years ago, but will have to produce one of their most stunning performances ever against heavyweights Gokulam Kerala if they are to repeat that feat.
“We will go all out tomorrow, it’s a do or die game for us,” stated head coach Ronibala, whose side’s biggest challenge will be to try and stop striker Sabitra Bhandari. The Nepal international is on red-hot form at the moment after having scored 26 goals in eight games.
“Gokulam Kerala will be the toughest opponent we have faced so far. Football is a team game, and if we do not allow them to create chances, there will be less probability of scoring. We will focus on winning and qualifying for finals,” she added.
The IWL semifinal between Gokulam Kerala FC and Eastern Sporting Union will be streamed live on the Indian Football YouTube Channel.