Defending champions Gokulam Kerala FC cruised past Eastern Sporting Union 5-1 in the Indian Women’s League semifinal at the TransStadia in Ahmedabad on Friday, May 19.
The Malabarians started the game on the strong foot and pressurised the Eastern Sporting Union defence right from the get-go. Goalkeeper Elangbam Panthoi Chanu had a particularly busy time staving off Gokulam Kerala’s constant attempts on goal.
In the 18th minute, however, Gokulam Kerala were stunned when Yumnam Kamala Devi gave the Imphal-based team the lead out of nowhere with a goal-of-the-season contender. The forward took control of an aerial delivery outside the box and drove it outrageously to catch Gokulam Kerala goalkeeper Beatrice Ntiwaa Nketia away from the line as the ball landed right into the back of the net.
The goal instilled some confidence into Eastern Sporting Union as they kept marching forward in numbers. However, the Malabarians bounced back stronger and continued to produce some good passages of play in the opposition half. In the 26th minute, their hard work paid dividends. Sabitra Bhandari was brought down inside the box by Heirangkhongjam Linda Chanu and the referee immediately pointed towards the spot. Indumathi Kathiresan made no mistake in finding the back of the net as she pulled the scores level at 1-1.
The two teams seemed to fight tooth and nail with the aim of gaining a lead in the game. In the end, it was Gokulam Kerala who found the big breakthrough in the dying seconds of the first half. The usual suspect Sabitra Bhandari snatched a long ball from Loitongbam Ashalata Devi and rounded Panthoi before slotting it home.
Having taken the lead at half-time, the Malabarians stepped up their game and fired on all cylinders in the second half. Substitute forward Vivian Adjei went on to make it 3-1 in the 55th minute as she completed a brilliant team move with a goal. Indumathi delivered a dangerous through ball from the half-line towards Bhandari, who squared the ball for Adjei. The Ghanaian tapped the ball in comfortably to take the game further away from Eastern Sporting Union’s reach.
Ultimately, in the 70th minute, another link-up play between Bhandari and Indumathi saw the latter scoring her second of the game to make it 4-1. Bhandari recovered possession near the half-line and dribbled it through the right flank. The Nepal forward spotted Indumathi’s run and delivered an inch-perfect aerial cross in. The Indian midfielder connected perfectly with a header as the ball landed in the top right corner.
To cap the wonderful night, Bhandari too completed her brace in the fifth minute of added time with another calm finish past Panthoi. This time Adjei turned provider for the goal as the Malabarians completed a jubilant comeback victory. The win means that Gokulam Kerala are now just one step away from their third straight IWL title.
India international Indumathi Kathiresan was awarded the Player of the Match for her quality display in the midfield, backed by two goals.