Defending champions Eastern Sporting Union had to dig down deep but ultimately prevailed in a nail-biter at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong, as they defeated the Indira Gandhi Academy of Sports and Education 3-2 in the first match of the Indian Women’s League 2018.

ESU took the lead in the 25th minute through Kashmina before Paromita Sil equalised in the 43rd for IGASE. Two goals from captain Prameshwori Devi in the 47th and 59th minute made the difference for ESU with Sandhiya scoring the second goal for IGASE in the 48th.

The title holders started out strongly as they strung together a wave of attacks. Prameshwori and Kashmina combined well to trouble the IGASE backline. Sweety came close with her free-kick in the 16th minute, which just brushed the crossbar on its way out before Prameshwori forced a save out of goalie Crystal Pinto in the 20th.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 25th when Kashmina hit the back of the net. A goal line save by Anjali in the 31st kept the score line intact as IGASE struggled to contain the wave of attacks.

A chance for an equaliser came in the 42nd minute when IGASE were given a penalty but Sandhiya scuffled the shot for Panthoi Chanu to make an easy save. A minute later though Paromita made the most of a goal mouth melee to make 1-1 as the teams headed into half-time.

The second half began with a bang as Prameshwori struck with a wonderful strike in the 47th minute to make it 2-1. The celebrations though were short lived as Sandhiya made up for her scuffed penalty to equalise in the 48th.

The goal vitalised the team from down South as Sandhiya, Pradeepa and Radhika gave a lot of trouble to ESU back line. Umapati Devi and Manisa Panna were being forced to make a lot of crucial interceptions to keep the strikers at bay.

Goalkeeper Panthoi was also kept on her toes with a couple of crucial saves off Sandhiya and Pradeepa. Then, almost against the run of play Prameshwori struck from a distance, her long ranger bulging the back of the net in the 59th minute.

Thereafter the IGASE came close a couple of times but the ESU defenders stood tall at the back. Sultana had a chance to put the match to bed in the 91st but her shot went wide as the game finished 3-2 in favour of the defending champions.

Eastern Sporting Union next play against Rising Student on March 28 while Indira Gandhi Academy SE take on India Rush SC the same day.

Rising overcome Gokulam

Last year’s finalists began their quest in this season’s IWL with a 2-0 win over debutants Gokulam Kerala FC. After a barren first half, goals from Ngoubi Devi in the 73rd minute and Anju Tamang in the 76th enabled Rising to clinch all three points.

The match began with Rising controlling the pace and tempo of the match in the opening 10 minutes. Slowly but surely Gokulam clawed themselves back as their Ugandan international Fazila Ikwaput made regular forays into the box down the left flank.

It almost paid off too in the 16th minute as Fazila headed it in from a terrible mix up at the back but the lineswoman ruled her offside. The momentum of the match too shifted towards the southern side but they were unable to find the net.

Meanwhile on the other side Rising came close once when Anju found herself in the clear, but she hit it over to the disappointment of her coach. The decisive moment of the half arrived in the 42nd minute when Fazila lashed one towards the goal, only for it to come off the crossbar as the it ended goalless in the first half.

The second half began in a similar fashion to how the first ended as Gokulam clearly looked the better of the two. But their poor finishing and indecisiveness in the final third didn’t help their cause.

The game turned scrappy thereafter as long balls were played in the hopes of finding their target woman. Fazila came close again when she hit the side netting in the 67th minute.

Finally, the elusive goal arrived in the 73rd minute. Ngoubi Devi struck to make it 1-0 in favour of Rising. Soon after in the 76th Anju Tamang chipped it over the goalkeeper’s head to give a 2-0 lead.

Gokulam were shaken by the two quick goals as they looked flustered at the back. Rising could have scored more but their wastefulness acted as a deterrent.

Rising Student will next face Eastern Sporting Union on March 28 while Gokulam Kerala FC will take on Sethu FC on March 29.