Fresh from their first win in the Hero Indian Women's League, East Bengal FC will take on Mata Rukmani FC in Group A at the TransStadia in Ahmedabad on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, at 4:30 pm IST.
After a heavy 2-8 defeat to Gokulam Kerala on the opening day, East Bengal bounced back with a 1-0 win over Kahaani FC on Saturday. Ratna Halder's late penalty made all the difference for the Red and Gold Brigade as they got off the mark in their debut Hero IWL season.
However, despite the win, head coach Sujata Kar was left wishing for more from her team. "We won but the team didn't play well on the field so I could be happier," she said.
Kar did acknowledge her team's strong spirit to recover from the big loss to Gokulam on day one. "It was tough for most of our players who are first-timers in the IWL to go up against the defending champions. But, I believe if this match was played later, we would've put on a better showing."
For their opponents, Mata Rukmani, who are yet to open their account this season, Kar has nothing but words of respect. "I think every team has some potential, and I always respect my opponent as the stronger one. We will try to give our best from our side," said Kar.
Head coach Santanu Ghosh's Mata Rukmani FC, featuring in their second Hero IWL campaign, lost 0-2 to Misaka United in their first game of the season before being edged 0-1 by Mumbai Knights on Saturday.
Free-scoring Gokulam Kerala FC take on HOPS FC
Group A leaders Gokulam Kerala FC will be favourites to maintain their hot streak when they face HOPS FC in Tuesday's morning kick-off at 8:00 am IST at the Shahibaug Police Stadium.
The defending champions have hit eight goals in each of their first two games (8-2 vs East Bengal and 8-1 vs Sports Odisha), with Nepal international Sabitra Bhandari netting nine of those. Head coach Anthony Andrews is happy with his side's offensive display and hopes to continue their form, but also wants more focus in defence.
"We have been working on our attacking play and will look to create as many chances as possible. However, we also need to be disciplined in defence and not concede too many goals.
"Our opponents (HOPS) are a strong team, and we have a healthy respect for them. We have analysed their strengths and weaknesses and will be ready to adapt our tactics accordingly," said Andrews.
HOPS FC had a heartbreaking Hero IWL debut as they went down 2-3 to Sports Odisha after conceding a 95th-minute goal. However, the side from the capital responded in fine fashion, defeating Misaka United 1-0 thanks to Renu Rani's second-half strike.
HOPS head coach Sanjay Singh sounded upbeat ahead of their big game tomorrow. "We all trust each other in wins and losses and will keep fighting until the last whistle of the last match. 'HOPS make miracles' is our tagline, and we are out to prove it in this IWL," he said.
Sanjay also claimed to be under no pressure before arguably his side's biggest-ever challenge in the shape of Gokulam. "We are underdogs and have no pressure on us. We are a team of village players looking to prove our mettle against the best in the business.
"We trust our style of play. We can trouble even the best of the teams. We respect Gokulam and are excited to challenge them and even beat them," Sanjay confidently added.
Misaka United FC aim to end Mumbai Knights FC's winning run
Mumbai Knights FC have made the perfect start to their debut Hero IWL campaign with two clean-sheet victories in a row. Rutuja Gunwant's side will next face off against Misaka United FC at the TransStadia at 8:00 am IST on Tuesday.
Misaka United FC made a strong start with a 2-0 win over Mata Rukmani but were edged 0-1 by HOPS in their last game, prompting head coach Anup Theres Raj to label the Mumbai Knights game as a 'must-win'. "Tomorrow's match is a must-win game for us because we've just got three points out of a possible six, and we need to be in a better position."
However, Anup knows it's going to be a tough encounter for Misaka. "Mumbai Knights are one of the best in the group. Having won both their games, they are high on confidence and have a spring in their stride. We will have to put up our best performance and try to upset them," he said.
Kahaani FC hope to open account against Sports Odisha
Also on Tuesday evening, local side Kahaani FC will take on last season's fourth-placed side Sports Odisha at the Shahibaug Police Stadium at 4:30 pm IST.
Like Mata Rukmani, Kahaani are yet to score their first goal in this season's Hero IWL. Lalita Saini's side have been competitive though, losing narrowly to Mumbai Knights and East Bengal by a solitary goal each.
Sports Odisha were on the wrong end of the heaviest winning margin yet this season, losing 1-8 to defending champions Gokulam Kerala on Saturday. Sumitra Hembram's splendid long-range strike, however, was the silver lining for Paromita Sit's side.
The Hero IWL matches - Kahaani FC vs Sports Odisha & East Bengal FC vs Mata Rukmani FC - will be streamed live on the Indian Football YouTube Channel at 4:30 pm IST on Tuesday, May 2, 2023.