Gokulam Kerala FC suffered a heavy defeat in their AFC Women’s Club Championship match against Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan. The Japanese side defeated the ladies from Kerala 8-0 in the group A encounter held at Chonburi Stadium, Thailand.
Urawa Red Ladies wasted no time in asserting their dominance with three goals in the first half, setting the tone for the match. Despite some defensive improvements displayed by Gokulam Kerala in the second half, the Japanese team continued to increase their lead, securing a convincing win in Group A.
The Japanese side began the game with great energy and found the net within two minutes. Yu Yajima made a remarkable run down the right flank and her precise pass found captain Hanae Shibata, who expertly buried the ball past Beatrice Nketia. Ghanaian goalkeeper Nketia had to stay on her toes as Urawa Red Ladies maintained their offensive pressure.
In the 16th minute and in the 38th minute, Urawa Reds increased their lead courtesy of goals by Akari Kurishima and Shimada. During the initial minutes of the second phase, the Reds again scored a goal courtesy of Miki Ito and she scored later in the 82nd minute again. Between these two goals, GKFC tried to contain the relentless attacks of Urawa Red and they did well. But as soon as Ito scored her second, the fighting spirit shown by Gokulam flew away and they conceded 3 more goals before the final whistle. Even though there were some individual sparks from the Kerala side, like their goalkeeper Beatrice Nketia who pulled off some stunning saves, as a group they were not able to gel up and control the tempo of the game.
This match was also a testament to the differences in the quality between the Indian sides and the top teams of Asia. This match also serves as a reminder of the need for a longer football season for the women’s footballers.
The three-time Indian Women’s League champions Gokulam Kerala qualified for the continental tournament following their crowning as IWL champions of the 2022-23 season. GKFC have been representing India in AFC competitions since 2021 but was left in despair in the previous tournament due to FIFA’s ban on AIFF. Later, they recouped for the Indian league and won the championship by defeating Kickstart FC in the final.
Gokulam was placed in Pot 4 ahead of the draw and was drawn into group A alongside Urawa Red Diamonds from Japan, Hualien of Chinese Taipei, and Bangkok FC of Thailand. All of the Group A matches will be held at Chonburi Stadium in Thailand. The teams finishing in pole position will play against the winner of Group B in the final to claim the trophy.
Gokulam Kerala will now face former Chinese Taipei League champions Hualien FC in their second match of the group on November 9, Thursday at 3 PM IST.