East Bengal FC 1 (Sanjida Akhter 48′)
lost to
Kickstart FC 3 (Aruna Bag 1′, Sonia Marak 31′, Karishma Shirvoikar 56′)

AIFF Media Team

KOLKATA: Kickstart FC bounced back from their first loss of the IWL season to comprehensively beat East Bengal 3-1 at the East Bengal Ground in Kolkata on Monday, February 5, 2024.

Kickstart were dominant from the get-go and delivered a swift response after their shocking 1-5 home loss to HOPS last week. The win sees the Bengaluru side keep their title hopes alive as they closed the gap to leaders Odisha FC to two points. East Bengal, on the other hand, remained in sixth place with four points from eight games.

Langam Chaoba Devi’s girls wasted no time to get 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. Kickstart were all over the hosts in the opening stages of the contest and came very near to doubling the advantage when Sonia Marak’s left-footed effort struck the crossbar in the sixth minute.

But the midfielder got a well-deserved first goal of the campaign at the half-hour mark as she caught the East Bengal defence napping and scored with a clean header from Supriya Routray’s looping cross from the left.

The Red and Gold Brigade, who were largely confined to their own half in the first 45 minutes and struggled to get a foothold in the game, found much-needed inspiration from their new signing Sanjida Akhter. Three minutes into the second half, the Bangladesh international scored her first IWL goal with a sensational free-kick from more than 40 yards out. Her meticulous effort dipped under the crossbar just in time to leave goalkeeper Maibam Linthoingambi Devi with no chance.

However, the joy in the East Bengal camp didn’t last long as Karishma Shirvoikar’s 56th-minute strike restored the visitors’ two-goal advantage. Seema Kispotta’s clearance fell onto the path of the IWL top-scorer, who juggled her way into the box and dispatched the ball into the top corner, knocking the wind out of East Bengal’s sail.

Karishma and Sanjida remained their side’s respective protagonists for the rest of the match, with the majority of the chances falling to them. The East Bengal midfielder blazed over a first-time effort from close range, but the flag went up for offside. At the other end, Karishma was sent clean through on goal but was denied her ninth goal of the season by a solid last-ditch block from experienced centre-back Michel Castanha.

Kickstart will next travel to Bhubaneswar to face bottom side Sports Odisha on February 10. Unfortunately for East Bengal, Monday’s defeat was the last of their six home matches this season, of which they failed to win any. The Red and Gold Brigade will be on the road to face Sethu FC in Vasco da Gama on February 11.