Shillong, Apr 14: Rising Students Club had the edge over Eastern Sporting Union (ESU) to win the final of the Indian Women’s League (IWL) 2018 5-4 on penalties and lift the title at the JN Stadium here today.
The final was a rematch of the 2017 edition, which had a very different outcome; ESU won that one comfortably 3-0.
This time Rising went one better and claimed the trophy as well as Rs 10 lakh as champions.
Roja Devi put ESU into the lead in the 13th minute, but a handball from Radharani Devi in the box in the second half provided Rising Students with an opening and player-of-the-match Sanju converted the penalty to make it 1-1 in the 71st minute.
The Odisha team then had a couple more chances, with their star forward Pyari Xaxa getting a couple of shots on target, though both of these were gathered up by Eastern Sporting goalkeeper Panthoi Chanu.
Rising then switched to a more defensive game and saw the 90 minutes as well as 30 minutes of extra time out in the hopes of prevailing in the penalty shootout. They had already beaten KRYPHSA in the semifinal round this way and it proved successful once again, though it was a nerve-wracking tiebreaker, with both teams missing several shots from the spot before Rising prevailed.
The victory was as emotional for Rising as the emotions the Manipur team felt at losing their title. This was ESU’s first defeat in the tournament.
Rising’s run to the title was an amazing one. They qualified for the semis only as the fourth-placed team. They had also lost to ESU in the league stage and had to overcome KRYPHSA, who had qualified in top spot during the round robin stage, in the semifinal. Trailing by a goal in the title match, however, didn’t dampen Rising’s hopes, as coach Sukla Dutta said in the post-match press conference.
“It’s a great achievement by the girls. We always look to capitalise on opposing teams’ weaknesses and when we got the equaliser I looked to taking the game to a tiebreaker because our players are strong in penalties,” Dutta said.
Meanwhile, Eastern Sporting’s coach Oinam Bembem Devi wasn’t bitter about the defeat.
“I have no bad feelings because this happens in football. The players did an excellent job, but it was the pressure of the penalties that got to us. I can’t believe the penalties we missed, but will try and keep encouraging the players for the future,” Bembem said.
For finishing as the top scorer with 12 goals, Bala Devi (KRYPHSA) was awarded Rs 1 lakh, while Panthoi Chanu (ESU) was awarded Rs 1 lakh as the ‘Best Goalkeeper’.
The ‘Most Valuable Player’ award was given to Irom Prameshwori Devi (ESU) with a prize of Rs 1.25 lakh, while Dangmei Grace (KRYPHSA) won Rs 75,000 as the ‘Best Emerging Player’.
The trophies, medals and cheques were presented by various officials of the Meghalaya Football Association, Meghalaya government, Asian Football Confederation and All India Football Federation. The chief guest was Agatha Sangma MLA.