The opening round of matches in the 2023 Indian Women’s League drew to an end with a thumping 6-0 victory for Sethu FC over Churchill Brothers FC at the Shahibaug Police Stadium in Ahmedabad on Friday.

With the Madurai-side containing a host of junior Indian internationals, Kajol D’souza shone the most with her four goals in the first half. Sunita Munda and Kenyan forward Ivy Faith Atieno added two more to wrap up a solid win for Sethu, which took them to joint-top of the Group B table alongside Odisha FC, who also won 6-0 against CRPF FC on Thursday.

Group A saw defending champions Gokulam Kerala get off to the perfect start with an 8-2 drubbing of East Bengal FC. All in all, there were 35 goals in the first eight matches of the new IWL season.

Gokulam Kerala, who won last year’s title with 11 wins out of 11, had a whirlwind of a start in this year’s competition, going 3-0 up after just seven minutes against Calcutta Women’s Football League champions East Bengal. While Rimpa Haldar and Tulsi Hembram did pull two back for the Red and Golds, there was no stopping Gokulam’s Nepali forward Sabitra Bhandari, who netted five goals.

The other big favourites Odisha FC had a seamless IWL debut, winning 6-0 against CRPF FC. After having signed plenty of big Indian names and a couple of foreign players, the Odisha Women’s League champions were excellent. But what would’ve pleased head coach Crispin Chettri the most is the fact that his side’s six goals were scored by six different players.

Kerala Women’s League champions Lords FA also had the perfect debut in the IWL. The Kochi side won 4-0 against fellow debutants Celtic Queens FC from Puducherry thanks to a second-half hat-trick from Philippines international midfielder Camille Rodriguez.

Tight results and some drama

There was no shortage of close and hard-fought victories too. The league, in fact, got underway with a thrilling contest between Sports Odisha and HOPS FC at the Shahibaug Police Stadium on Wednesday morning. The Delhi state champions were down by two goals until the 74th minute when a couple of quickfire goals from Shailja and Rajni Bala levelled things up. But it was Sports Odisha who took away three points, with Anju’s 95th-minute winner sealing the match.

Elsewhere at the TransStadia, Lalrinmuani’s two goals on either side of half-time helped Bengaluru’s Misaka United FC overcome Mata Rukmani FC of Chhattisgarh by 2-0. The inaugural IWL champions from 2016-17, Eastern Sporting Union nicked a 1-0 win over last season’s third-placed side Kickstart FC. Veteran midfielder Moirangthem Mandakini Devi’s first-half goal made the difference for the Manipur-based outfit.

For local side Kahaani FC, it was a difficult first day at the office as the Gujarat State Women’s League champions went down 0-1 to Mumbai Knights FC, with Priyanka scoring the lone goal.