Ludhiana: 26 goals in 6 games - Bala Devi has been scoring goals left right and centre in the third edition of the Indian Women's League (IWL) and Monday was no different. The Manipur Police SC captain scored all the four goals for her team as they beat Gokulam Kerala FC 4-2 to reach the final.
Manipur Police SC played the entirety of the second half after Romi Devi was sent off in the 46th minute for a deliberate handball but that did not stop the team from playing their usual attacking brand of football and it paid dividends with Bala up front.
The game saw three penalties being awarded - two to Manipur and one to Gokulam. The first penalty was given early on when Bala was brought down in the box. She stepped up to take the kick and scored a brilliant one.
Gokulam equalised as Bina Devi put the ball into her own net as the two teams went into half time with the scoreline reading 1-1.
Early in the second half, Romi Devi's sendoff resulting in the second penalty of the match and Ranjana Chanu stepped up and took a beautiful penalty to give Gokulam the lead.
47' GOAL! Anju rushes into the box and shoots. But her shot is blocked off the line by Romi Devi's hand. The latter is sent off for the handball. 🔴Ranjana Chanu converts the penalty! 😮GKFC 2-1 MPSC📺: https://t.co/2fc1N6aTq7 #GKFCMPSC #HeroIWL #ShePower #IndianFootball pic.twitter.com/xNWQw8dDml— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) May 20, 2019
Over 60 minutes in the match and with the scoreline reading 2-1 in favour of Gokulam, Manipur made an attacking change when forward Laxmi Devi was brought on for Pramodini Chanu.
With the change in formation and perhaps more will and interest, Manipur began to apply a lot of pressure on Gokulam through their wing play. Manipur's No.7 Irom Prameshwori Devi and No.8 Moirangthem Mandakini Devi ran their lungs out on the wings to feed Laxmi, Bala and No.11 Heigrujam Daya Devi.
Manipur earned their second penalty in the 67th minute and once again Bala stepped up to help Manipur level 2-2.
By then, Manipur defence had taken its shape and they were able to thrawt all of Gokulam's advances. On the other hand, Manipur kept pressing up front and kept growing dangerously.
In the 74th minute, Bala was let free up front and had the chance to put Manipur in the lead but took a little bit of extra time on the ball and Gokulam keeper Maibam Linthoingambi Devi made herself big and made a solid save.
However, Bala was not to be denied. In the 80th minute, Daya made a brilliant run on the left to absolute smoke out the Gokulam defence and gave the ball to Bala on a platter, who tapped it in for her hat-trick.
80' GOAL! Daya advances down the left, crosses it in to Bala, who is on the spot to convert the chance! 🙌🙌GKFC 2-3 MPSC📺: https://t.co/2fc1N6aTq7 #GKFCMPSC #HeroIWL #ShePower #IndianFootball pic.twitter.com/mkmJSjLt4O— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) May 20, 2019
Just a minute later, Bala once again received a good through ball and this time she kept calm, beat two defenders and Linthoi and slotted the ball home.
Manipur kept their shape thereafter and did not allow Gokulam much space in the box and as the final whistle blew, Bala Devi stood tall above everybody else, leading her team into the final.
Manipur will take on the winner of the second semi-final between Sethu FC and Central Women SSB on Wednesday.