Tribune News Service
Ludhiana, May 20
Manipur Police Sports Club overpowered Gokulam Kerala FC 4-2, while Sethu FC, Madurai, demolished SSB Football Club 8-1 to set up the title clash in the Indian Women’s League at Guru Nanak Stadium here today.
Bala Devi was the star of the show yet again as she netted all the four goals for the Manipur team, which came back from 1-2 deficit despite going down to 10 girls after defender Romi Devi was sent off in the 47th minute. Bala now has 26 goals in the season.
Manipur Police went on the offensive early on and started creating a lot of chances. Unlike their previous game, they started with a 4-4-2 formation with Bala Devi and Daya Devi operating up front. Bala dropped deep to add more numbers to the Manipur midfield and feed the balls to Daya. It was one of these moves that got Manipur their first goal on the quarter-hour mark. Daya was played into the box via an aerial through ball, but was fouled by Gokulam centre-back Poli Koley. The referee immediately pointed to the spot, and Bala Devi converted the penalty to put her side ahead.
Gokulam were having some trouble in the initial part of the match, as Manipur made a concerted effort to crowd out Manisha, who was playing in the attacking midfield role. Soon, they made a couple of tactical changes that turned things in their favour.
Poli Koley was taken off as the Kerala side pushed Lako Bhutia to the centre-back position, while Naocha Devi came on to take up the holding midfield spot alongside captain Dalima Chhibber.
Dalima then pushed Manisha up front, while Anju Tamang played in the hole behind her. The new approach started working for Gokulam and they finally got the equaliser through a corner after Bina Devi turned the ball into her own net from a melee.
Gokulam came out with purpose in the second half and Anju Tamang penetrated the Manipur box and fired a shot that was blocked off the line. However, it had struck Romi Devi's hand and she was subsequently sent off. Ranjana Chanu converted the ensuing penalty to put Gokulam in front, but Manipur did not lie low, despite being a player down. They pressed forward and earned a penalty kick after Gokulam defence committed a foul inside the box. Bala Devi duly converted the spot kick to put her side level.
The side scored two more goals in the last 10 minutes to seal a 4-2 win and a spot in the final.
In the second semifinal, Sethu FC’s Sabitra Bhandari netted four goals to take her tournament tally to 13. But it was Dangmei Grace who stole the show with her display from the right wing as she scored a hat-trick and made a couple of assists to win the Player of the Match award.
SSB started off the game at a higher tempo, laying a proverbial siege on the Sethu penalty area. They created plenty of chances in the opening exchanges, but failed to capitalise, something that cost them dearly later on.
The final will be played on Wednesday.
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