As we breathe, March 18 is getting closer and so is the ninth playoff final of the Indian Super League. On the blue side will be Simon Grayson’s hot Bengaluru FC while on the red side, it will be ATK Mohun Bagan.
Bengaluru FC have reached this far on the back of a 10-game winning run. As defeating a ‘powerless’ Mumbai City FC didn’t sit right with the critics, they did it at their home with all the firepower the opponents could possess. Des Buckingham’s side did return the favor but fell short in the penalty shootout.
The night is massive also because of the gracing presence of Green-and-Maroon. Ever since they entered the ISL, they have made it to the final four but they haven’t been able to lift the trophy. The mastermind leading them is Juan Ferrando, who has been put under pressure in one way or other ever since he stepped in India.
For gearing up for the big game, it’s only right that we run through all the eight finals that have happened before, rank-wise.
8. Chennaiyin FC 3-2 Bengaluru FC (2017-18)
2017-18 was Bengaluru FC’s first season in ISL. They had already become a hot name in the circuit with their domestic success and AFC Cup run. The side maintained the longest winning (5) and unbeaten (10) run in the league, also finishing top of the table. Meaning that if the ISL shield was a thing back then, BFC would have had another trophy in their cabinet.
In the final held at the Sree Kanteerava, Albert Roca’s side took the lead through Sunil Chhetri. But two headers from Mailson Alves and another one from Raphael Augusto made it for Chennaiyin.
The BFC captain had the goal at his mercy several times but he just couldn’t find the net. Maybe that wasn’t his day afterall. Miku did pull one back with a header but that was too late. That couldn’t pull back Chennaiyin FC from becoming the second team to become two-time ISL Champions.
7. Chennaiyin FC 1-3 ATK (2019-20)
ISL 2019-20 Final was the first ever game played behind closed doors due to COVID-19. ATK were on the back of a fantastic home-leg comeback against Bengaluru FC whereas Owen Coyle’s Chennaiyin had a resurgence of their own.
Valskis had fair few chances throughout the game. He took one back in the 69th minute to make it 2-1. But ATK were always on the safe side, thanks to Hero of the Match Arindam Bhattacharya. ATK winning the record third title rounded off a memorable season from a lot of perspectives.
Javi Hernandez, the now Bengaluru FC player, scored a brace.
6. Mumbai City FC 2-1 ATK Mohun Bagan (2020-21)
Quality-wise, this could be the worst ISL final of all. But the late winner from Bipin Singh probably moved it higher up the list. This was Mumbai City’s first-ever season in the sky blue with CFG in full force. The side containing Bart Ogbeche, Adam le Fondre, and Hugo Boumous had earlier lifted their first-ever League Shield under Sergio Lobera.
Habas’ ATK Mohun Bagan was comfortably the best side in the league alongside Mumbai City. They had lost shield to their rivals in the final matchday decider. But Bagan came first in the final with David Williams latching on to a collective defensive mistake. Later on, Tiri scored an own goal to level things up. Amay Ranawade suffered a horrible concussion after a collision with Subhashish Bose right before halftime.
The reason for this to be the dodgiest final of all time is that all the goals were almost gifted by the defense rather than scored by the attack. In the 90th minute, Ogbeche caught on to Arindam’s mistake and Bipin picked it to the far bottom corner, out of both Arindam’s and Jhinghan’s reach.
5. Kerala Blasters (3)1-1(4) ATK (2016)
The Indian Super League crown was again at the stake in 2016 when Kerala Blasters and ATK once again met. The game had some common names in Michael Chopra and Iain Hume. Except this time, Hume had jumped ships to Kolkata.
The packed Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium at Kochi was, of course, mostly filled with the Blasters fans hoping to witness a historic moment in the team’s history. Instead, Debjit Majumder’s shootout save off Cedrik Hengbart’s penalty shattered their hopes. Sheikh Jewel Raja sealed it with his final kick.
4. Kerala Blasters 0-1 ATK (2014)
Not long ago, there was a time when ISL burst into the scene as the footballing spectacle with shining names around. However, it was also the time when the final between the two sides representing such hotspots of Indian football wasn’t actually tagged as a football activity. It was more of “Sachin vs Ganguly” around the country.
Sachin Tendulkar’s Kerala Blasters were in the final after defeating rivals Chennaiyin FC while Saurav Ganguly’s franchise ATK got the place after beating FC Goa in the penalty shootout. Around 36,500 people were in attendance for the inaugural final of ISL. Navi Mumbai’s DY Patil Stadium was the venue.
Michael Chopra for Blasters came close multiple times. But the deadlock wasn’t broken. However, destiny wanted an Indian to script such an important occurrence in Indian Football. ATK’s set-piece specialist Jakub Podany’s strong corner delivery fell right into substitute Mohammad Rafique’s head who made no mistake in thumping it home.
3. Bengaluru FC 1-0 FC Goa (2018-19)
Rahul Bheke, Mumbai Football Arena, Delgado’s delivery, and that 117th-minute header. This could probably be Bengaluru FC’s best memory in ISL so far.
After a long-grueling contested 90 minutes, the game went to the extra time. Miku had a long night. So had Ahmed Jahouh whose foul on Miku handed him the red card.
Ultimately, it was Dimas Delgado’s corner delivery in the box which met Bheke’s head. FC Goa keeper Naveen Kumar couldn’t palm it away and it went in after hitting the woodwork. Thus, a memorable night for the local man and the rest of the Bengaluru FC fraternity.
2. Hyderabad FC (3)1-1(1) Kerala Blasters (2021-22)
The ISL 2021-22 final was the second time a final reached to the point of penalty shootouts. It was a pretty even game despite that Rahul KP’s far-cry shot crept in. To remind you, it was Lakshmikant Kattimani in the goal for Hyderabad FC in Fatorda.
But right at the death, the frequency of the banger proved to be way too loud for us human beings to decipher. Sahil Tavora had just put the team in yellow back into the game.
Blasters made some attacks but Kattimani was strong. The game eventually went to the penalty shootouts. With Pereyra Diaz and Alvaro Vasquez off, Blasters were at the disadvantage. And it reflected in the final results. But take nothing away from the headliner Kattimani. He made the right calls barring the earlier mistake and made headlines for all the right reasons. “Kattimani’s Redemption Night” is what we termed it.
But redemption? What for?
1. FC Goa 2-3 Chennaiyin FC (2015)
Nothing has topped what happened on the final night of ISL 2015 at Fatorda. The final is remembered for many things, but the Chennaiyin comeback within two minutes tops them all.
The game remained 1-1 until the 87th minute when Jofre’s freekick sent FC Goa ahead in the home final. All to be shattered when the final scoreline read 3-2 against them.
This match is well remembered for the howlers of Kattimani but it’s often ignored that he saved Bruno Pellisari’s penalty. However, he scored on the rebound. In the 90th minute, Kattimani came out of his line to punch out a Mehrajuddin Wadoo long ball but he deflected it to his own net. As soon as it looked like the game could be extended, Stiven Mendoza placed one in the bottom corner.
To date, it remains the best ISL final ever and it could probably continue to be so.
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