Sethu FC turned around a first-half deficit to clinch their first ever Indian Women’s League trophy after defeating Manipur Police 3-1 at the Guru Nanak Stadium on Wednesday. Radharani Devi had put Manipur in the lead towards the end of the first half. But an own goal by Umapati Devi put Sethu back in the game before their Nepal international Sabitra Bhandari turned up the heat to score two goals and win it for the Madurai-based side. Sethu kept the Manipur attackers in check and built on their swift counter-attacks to move the ball up the pitch quickly. Their left winger Sandhiya looked lively in the opening exchanges as she bombed down the left flank to give a lot of trouble to the Manipur defence.
The India international had the first clear chance a little after 10 minutes when she received the ball just inside the box and pulled the trigger. However, she scuffed her instep shot and it lacked any sting. The winger had another good chance when she received the ball from a melee inside the Manipur box, but her shot rolled inches wide of the post. Manipur’s Bala Devi was tightly marked as she often had to drop to the midfield or to the right wing in order to make some space for herself. Bala increasingly began to cut a rather frustrated figure and was starting to resort to long-range efforts. Manipur’s goal came in just the right time with a little over a minute of regulation time left for the first half, as Radharani leaped above the rest to nod in a corner from the left.
Sethu came out with more vigour in the second half and got the goal that they were looking for when Dangmei Grace broke down the right and sent in a low cross as captain Indumathi Kathiresan pulled the trigger. However, it took a deflection off Manipur defender Umapati Devi, who was unfortunately awarded the own goal. It took the Madurai-based side around another five minutes to take the lead as their mercurial Nepalese striker Sabitra Bhandari was set through on goal. The Sethu number nine rounded off the goalkeeper, before slotting it into the net from an angle.
Sabitra, who was relatively quiet for most of the first half, came into her own after this goal that gave her the confidence. She scored her second of the evening when Sandhiya broke swiftly down the left and played her in through the channel between the left back and the left centre-back. The Nepal international opened up her right foot and slotted it into the bottom corner to give Sethu the two-goal cushion.
From then on, it was a matter of seeing out the Manipur attacks, a responsibility that the likes of Sethu defenders Ashalata Devi and Sweety Devi, and midfielders Sumithra, Ratanbala and Indumathi carried out perfectly.