It was a sheer mismatch, to say the least as last year’s runner-up Kickstart FC was all at ease against host HOPS FC before running away with a 3-0 victory.
Barring a couple of shots that hit the crossbar and the post, the home side did little of note that could have cheered up the handful of spectators in the stands. However, its Ghanaian recruits, midfielder Gladys Amfobea and striker Fredrica Torkudzor have the potential to help the team grow shortly.
Kickstart is a far more composed side with serious intentions to have a go at the title, which it lost to Gokulam Kerala FC last year. A few losses of players in the transfer market notwithstanding, the Karnataka side has revamped its side with fresh recruits and could be expected to do better as the season progresses. Its two Nepalese strikers, Dipa Shahi and Preeti Rai are smooth operators in the final third and often play intelligent passes in the attacking zone.
Karishma Purushottam opened the scoring for the winners in the 13th minute with a delicate shot to the top corner of the right. But the fact that she was allowed to grab the ball and take a shot was a mistake by the HOPS defence, as the ball should have been cleared easily. It was the first goal of the IWL 2023-24 as the opening match between Gokulam Kerala FC and Sethu FC ended in a goalless draw in Kozhikode on Friday.
Ten minutes later came the second goal. This time, Sushmita Lepcha made her way through the defence before finding the target. Thereafter, Kickstart FC made several inroads, but a lack of decision-making in front of the rival goal let it down.
Things didn’t change in the second half, with the winners attacking relentlessly and HOPS surviving by the skin of its teeth. It succumbed again in the 64th minute with a goal that left even the scorer herself surprised. Substitute Yumlembam Pakpi Devi perhaps wasn’t planning a straight attempt at the goal; she probably went for a cross, but the ball swung in to find the net, making it arguably the best goal of the match.
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