Ludhiana: Sethu FC remained unbeaten in the third edition of the Indian Women's League (IWL) at the Guru Nanak Dev stadium on Wednesday and beat Manipur Police SC 3-1 in the final to win their maiden title.
Sethu had defeated Manipur 6-4 in the group stage and while the final was not a goal fest, Sethu showed their dominance once again and beat Bala Devi-captained Manipur to bag the trophy.
Despite being the top scorer of the league with 26 goals, Bala was kept quite by the indomitable defence of Sethu, comprising of Ngangbam Sweety Devi and Loitongbam Ashalata Devi and so was the No.11 Daya Devi.
Sethu's Nepalese striker and their top scorer Sabitra Bhandari scored a brace while Thokchom Umapati Devi netted an own goal in Sethu's victory. For Manipur, the sole goal was scored by Gurumayum Radharani Devi.
Sethu completely dominated Manipur in the second half of the match and reaped benefits of the same as they came out as victors.
However, Manipur Police camp was unhappy with the refereeing and their head coach Mutum Surmala Chanu did not mince her words in the post-match press conference.
On being asked whether her team was down on morale in the second half, Surmala said the refereeing decision contributed to their lack of spirit.
"Yes because the referee decisions were not good. I am not satisfied with them. She did not give two clear penalties - one for Daya (Devi) and the other one for Bala (Devi). It wasn't good. The final should have had a good referee.
"My players played very well but referee decisions were awry. We don't want to participate with such decisions. It is demoralising for the team," Surmala said.
Surmala also expressed her displeasure on the tournament awards. While Bala Devi won the top scorer award, the Most Valuable Player went to Sandhiya of Sethu FC.
"Bala got the top-scorer, which is good but I don't understand the Most Valuable Player award. I mean who do you judge it? Bala got player of the match in four matches while Sandhiya got it in just two. How is the selection done then," Surmala expressed.
ABOUT THE FINAL
(Photo Credit: AIFF)
Sethu were on the attack right from the start and even forced Manipur keeper Elangbam Panthoi Chanu into a couple of saves.
As early as the 15th minute, Bala was brought down just outside the box but the referee saw no foul in that and waved on. Both Bala and Daya were denied a penalty decision each in either halves of the match.
While it was mostly Sethu launching attacks, Manipur also broke the deadlock first.
Soon after a stunning shot from Daya hit the post, some intricate play in the Sethu half ensued and that earned Manipur a corner. Through a couple of moves from the corner, the ball was delivered in the centre and Radharani headed the ball in the back of the net.
Towards the end of the first half, even Sethu had a free kick hitting the crossbar and the teams went into the break with Manipur having a slight edge at 1-0.
As the second half began, the spring in the steps of Sethu players was visible. There was something that their coach Amrutha Aravind Valliyath had said that started working its magic on the ground.
Time and again in the second half, Sabitra and Dangmei Grace were able to get behind the Manipur defenders and make meaningful forays in their box.
Soon in the 56th minute, Sethu's incessant attack led to an own goal from Umapati.
With the score level, Sethu seemed to have gained the confidence they required and they put Manipur completely on the backfoot.
It was Grace's movements all over the final third that started troubling the Manipur defence. In the 61st minute, Sethu captain Indumathi placed a brilliant through ball and found Sabitra, who made no mistake and scored her first goal of the evening.
It didn't take long after that for Sabitra to find her second goal and Indumathi got another assist to her name.
Post the 3-1 scoreline, Manipur players' shoulders have dropped and they looked low on morale. Despite valiant attempts from Daya on the front, Manipur failed to find another goal and Sethu eased to the victory.