Kolkata, Feb 5 (IANS) Last season’s runners-up Kickstart FC bounced back from their first defeat of the 2023-24 Indian Women’s League (IWL) season to comprehensively beat East Bengal to 3-1 at the East Bengal Ground here on Monday.
Kickstart were dominant from the start and provided a quick response after their shock 1-5 home defeat against HOPS last week. The win helped the Bengaluru outfit keep their title hopes alive as they closed the gap on leaders Odisha FC to two points. East Bengal, on the other hand, remain in sixth position with four points from eight matches.
FASTEST GOAL OF THE SEASON
Langam Chaoba Devi’s girls wasted no time getting off the mark, scoring the fastest goal of the season so far as defender Aruna Bag headed in Yumlembam Pakpi Devi’s corner after just 48 seconds.
The kickstart was all over the visitors in the early stages of the contest and they came very close to doubling their lead when Sonia Marak’s left-footed shot hit the crossbar in the sixth minute.
But the midfielder got a deserved first goal of the campaign on the half-hour when she caught the East Bengal defense napping and scored with a clean header from Supriya Routray’s cross from the left.
The Red and Gold Brigade, who were largely confined to their own half for the first 45 minutes and struggled to settle into the game, found some much-needed inspiration from their new signing Sanjida Akhter.
Three minutes into the second half, the Bangladesh international scored his first IWL goal with a sensational free-kick from over 40 metres. Her painstaking effort fell under the crossbar just in time to leave goalkeeper Maibam Linthoingambi Devi with no chance.
However, the joy in the East Bengal camp did not last long as Karishma Shirvoikar’s strike in the 56th minute restored the visitors’ two-goal lead. Seema Kispotta’s clearance fell into the path of the IWL’s top scorer, who juggled her way into the box and sent the ball into the top corner, taking the wind out of East Bengal’s sails .
Karishma and Sanjida were the respective stars of their team for the rest of the match, with most of the chances falling to them. The East Bengal midfielder fired first time from close range but the flag went up for offside.
At the other end, Karishma was sent through on goal but was denied her ninth goal of the season by a solid final block from experienced center Michel Castanha.
The Kickstart will travel to Bhubaneswar on February 10 to face the Sports Odisha final. Unfortunately for East Bengal, Monday’s defeat was the last of their six home games this season, none of which they won. The Red and Gold Brigade will be on the road to face former champions Sethu FC in Vasco da Gama, Goa on February 11.