Sethu FC turned around a first half deficit to beat Manipur Police SC 3-1 and win its first ever Indian Women’s League (IWL) trophy in the process, at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana on Wednesday.
Radharani Devi put Manipur Police in the lead towards the end of the first half, but an own goal by Umapati Devi put Sethu back in the game, before Sethu's Nepal international Sabitra Bhandari turned up the heat to score two goals and win it for the Madurai-based side.
Sethu started the first half well, keeping the Manipur attackers in check and built on its swift counter-attacks. Left winger Sandhiya looked lively in the opening exchanges as she bombed down the left flank to trouble the Manipur defense.
The India international had the first clear chance around the 10th minute when she received the ball just inside the box and pulled the trigger. However, she scuffed her shot and it lacked any sting.
The winger had another good chance when she received the ball from a melee inside the Manipur box, but her shot rolled inches wide of the post.
Manipur’s Bala Devi was tightly marked, and she often had to drop to the midfield or to the right wing, in order to make some space for herself. Bala increasingly began to cut a rather frustrated figure, and was starting to resort to long-range efforts.
Manipur’s goal came at with a little over a minute of regulation time left in the first half, as Radharani leaped above the rest to nod in a corner from the left.
Sethu came out with more vigour in the second half and got the equaliser when Dangmei Grace broke down the right and sent in a low cross as captain Indumathi Kathiresan pulled the trigger. However, it took a deflection off Manipur defender Umapati Devi, who was unfortunately awarded the own goal.
It took Sethu nearly five minutes to take the lead for the first time in the game, as its mercurial Nepalese striker Sabitra Bhandari was sent through on goal. She rounded off the goalkeeper before slotting it into the net.
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Sabitra, who was relatively quiet for most of the first half, came into her own with the goal giving her a confidence boost. She scored her second of the evening when Sandhiya broke swiftly down the left and played her in through the channel between the left-back and the centre-back. The Nepal international opened up her right foot and slotted into the bottom corner to give Sethu the two-goal cushion.
From then on, it was a matter of defending the lead, a responsibility that the likes of Sethu defenders Ashalata Devi and Sweety Devi, and midfielders Sumithra, Ratanbala and Indumathi carried out perfectly.
With the win, Sethu became the third team to win the tournament, with Eastern Sporting Union and Rising Student’s Club being the former winners.
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