Feature

Best ISL matches: From roller-coaster finals to nine-goal thrillers

Over the first six editions, the Indian Super League has produced some thrilling encounters. Here’s a look back at some of the best ISL matches.

By Utathya Nag ·

Into its seventh season, the Indian Super League (ISL) is still a very young competition.

Since its inception in 2014, however, the ISL has had its grand moments, including some matches which have been etched in every Indian football fans’ hearts forever due to the sheer drama and stakes attached to them.

Here’s remembering some of the best ISL matches over the years.

Chennaiyin FC vs Kerala Blasters FC – 2014 ISL semi-final second leg

South Indian rivals Chennaiyin FC and Kerala Blasters FC went head to head in the sem-finals of the inaugural season of the Indian Super League (ISL).

Playing the first leg at home, Kerala Blasters shocked Chennaiyin 3-0 to take what seemed like an unassailable advantage into the second leg. Chennaiyin, playing in front of their home crowd at the Marina Arena, however, flipped the script dramatically.

Former Manchester United star Mikael Silvestre drew first blood for Chennaiyin FC just before half-time. Marco Materazzi seemed to have made it 2-0 from the penalty spot but the goal was disallowed and the Italian World Cup winner hit the post with the retake.

Chennaiyin, however, continued undeterred and found their second through a Sandesh Jhingan own goal in the 76th minute. Jeje Lalpekhlua made it 3-0 in the dying seconds of the regulation 90 minutes to take the crunch ISL match into extra time.

With the momentum and home support behind them, Chennaiyin FC looked overwhelming favourites but another twist awaited. After hanging on to dear life for much of the added time, Kerala Blasters found a hero in former Derby County man Stephen Pearson.

The Scotsman scored a brilliant goal in the 117th minute to make it 3-1 and take Kerala to the final courtesy a 4-3 aggregate. The ISL match also had three red cards, only adding to the drama.

FC Goa vs Chennaiyin FC – 2015 ISL final

Stakes couldn’t have been higher when FC Goa hosted Chennaiyin FC at the Fatorda on December 20, 2015. The two ISL teams were vying for the title.

The match, too, lived up to the occasion with Goa, coached by the legendary Brazilian Zico, and Chennaiyin, helmed by Materazzi, threw caution to the wind and exhibited tremendous attacking intent.

After a goalless first half, the balance of the match continued to tip. FC Goa goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani saved a penalty in the 53rd minute but Bruno Pelissari turned in the rebound to give Chennaiyin FC the lead. Within five minutes, however, the Gaurs hit right back with an equaliser from Thongkhosiem Haokip.

Two minutes later, Kattimani saved yet another spot kick from Stiven Mendoza to keep his team level and it seemed to have been the defining moment of the tumultuous ISL match when Jofre gave FC Goa a 2-1 lead in the 87th minute.

In added time, though, Chennaiyin’s Mendoza came alive. The Colombian striker’s pressure on the Goa defence forced an own goal from Kattimani. The 2015 ISL Golden Boot winner then followed it up with a brilliant goal in the dying seconds to give Chennaiyin FC a dramatic 3-2 win and the ISL title.

The drama boiled over after the match as well, with some heated post-match exchanges between both teams. A new rivalry was born in the ISL.

FC Goa vs Chennaiyin FC – 2016 ISL match 53

In what seemed like an extension to the 2015 final, FC Goa and Chennaiyin FC rivalry took centre stage again a year later at the same venue. With both sides towards the bottom of the points table and out of top four contention, the ISL match was a dead rubber but the intensity was no less than a final.

Two goals in the first 10 minutes and five in the first half-hour, saw Chennaiyin take a 3-2 lead into half time. FC Goa’s Sahil Tavora, a second half substitute, brought the Gaurs back on level terms before Rafael Luiz scored his second of the match to help FC Goa nudge ahead.

Former Liverpool legend John Arne Riise converted a penalty kick for Chennaiyin FC with just two minutes left on the clock and it seemed like the spoils would be shared. Tavora, though, had other ideas.

The youngster emerged the hero as he drilled in an extra time goal to help the Gaurs to a 5-4 win.

Till date, it’s still the joint highest scoring ISL match in history with 9 goals.

ATK vs Delhi Dynamos FC – 2017-18 ISL match 81

In ISL season 4, ATK and the Delhi Dynamos FC played out a classic tie which still resonates as one of the most thrilling ISL matches of all time.

Deadlocked at 1-1 going into the break, it was ATK who took the lead through a quickfire brace by former Tottenham Hotspur star Robbie Keane. Trailing 3-1 with 30 minutes left, Delhi Dynamos needed to produce a masterclass and the Lions came up with exactly that.

Kalu Uche scored his second of the match to reduce the deficit in the 69th minute and Seityasen Singh brought them level just two minutes later. Just as it seemed the points would be shared, super sub Matias Mirabaje came up with a dramatic winner to put the game to bed 4-3 in favour of the Delhi Dynamos.

Bengaluru FC vs FC Goa – 2018-19 ISL final

Having lost out to Chennaiyin FC in the final of ISL season five, Bengaluru FC were out to redeem themselves but found it hard against a strong FC Goa side in the decider in Mumbai.

FC Goa looked the dominant side and had the better of the chances but the Blues put up a gritty front to curb the free-scoring Gaurs. The regulation 90 minutes ended goalless. Towards the end of the first period of extra time, the flow of the match changed with FC Goa reduced to 10 men after Ahmed Jahouh’s red card.

Goa, though, still looked comfortable. But just as it seemed the final was heading towards penalties, Bengaluru defender Rahul Bheke headed home from a corner in the 116th minute to win Bengaluru FC their first ISL title.

ATK vs Bengaluru FC – 2019-20 ISL semi-final second leg

Bengaluru FC travelled to Kolkata with a 1-0 first leg advantage against ATK and promptly proceeded to score as early as in the 5th minute in the away fixture.

With a 2-0 aggregate advantage and an away goal in their bag, Sunil Chhetri and Co. looked prime to make it to the final. Boasting the best defence in the league, the Blues were expected to see off an ATK side who were being forced to go on the attack diverging from their counter-attacking style.

The eventual champions, though, found a way. Roy Krishna pulled a goal back around the half hour mark before his strike partner David Williams stepped up in the second half. The Australian earned and scored a penalty on the 63rd minute before wrapping up a 3-1 win with a brilliant header around the 80-minute mark.

The win was enough for ATK to progress to the final with a 3-2 aggregate.

Lead photo: Indian Super League/Twitter