The ISL has witnessed some scintillating playoff fixtures in the recent past.

Ever since its advent in 2014, the Indian Super League has yielded some nerve-wracking playoff ties. Though there have not been too many goals over the two-legged games, some fixtures have enthralled audiences more than others. Among these, we have witnessed a variety of different playing styles from the competing teams, as they aimed to book a berth in the finals. One could even say that the playoffs of the ISL boast a significantly higher level of drama than the finals. From the suspension-plagued playoffs in 2016 to the high-scoring showdown in 2020; the knockout stages have witnessed it all.

With that in mind, let us now take a look at the top five playoffs ties in ISL history:

Plenty of chances but no finished product

5. Kerala Blasters Vs Chennaiyin FC : 2014 (4-3 agg)

The first-ever edition of the ISL saw the Tuskers go up against the Marina Machans in a mouth-watering clash in the knockouts. Kerala Blasters had won the first leg with an emphatic 3-0 scoreline at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Ishfaq Ahmed and Sushanth Mathew were on the scoresheet for Kerala, as was talismanic striker Iain Hume.

Sushant Mathew
Sushant Mathew scored a crucial late goal in the playoffs against Chennaiyin FC (Courtesy: ESPN)

The second leg, however, fulfilled the promise of drama, excitement and disappointment altogether. Kerala Blasters were off to a grim start as defender Jamie McAllister was sent off in the 28th minute. Chennaiyin then rallied back valiantly through goals from Jeje Lalpekhlua and Mikael Silvestre, as Sandesh Jhingan turned one into his own net.

As the game went into extra-time, Chennaiyin fell into a state of despair as marquee player Marco Materazzi and forward Bojan Djordjic saw red. Eventually, Stephen Pearson stepped up for the Tuskers in the 117th minute.  His goal sent Kerala Blasters into the first-ever ISL Finals, breaking the hearts of hopeful Chennaiyin fans. 

4. ATK Vs Mumbai City FC: 2016 (3-2 agg)

Gruelling would be the only word to define the playoff tie between ATK FC and Mumbai City in 2016. Quite interestingly, all the goals in this fixture were scored in the first half of the first leg. Lalrindika Ralte started the proceedings for ATK in the third minute, before Leo Costa equalized seven minutes later.

ISL playoffs
Hume scored a brace for ATK FC in their win over Mumbai City (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Gerson Vieira then put the Islanders ahead but the lead only lasted till the 39th minute. Iain Hume stepped up to equalize and then restored ATK’s lead in first-half stoppage time. Mumbai City’s marquee player Diego Forlan was sent off in the 74th minute, as the match ended in a victory for the Kolkata-based outfit. 

The second leg saw more suspensions, as Robert Lalthlamuana’s dismissal saw ATK reduced to 10 men in the first half. Mumbai City could not capitalize on their advantage, as the match went all the way to the fifth minute of stoppage time. Both Thiago Cunha (Mumbai City) and Juan Belancoso (ATK) were then sent off following a heated exchange. Despite having two players sent off, ATK had the last laugh, as they would go on to win the ISL title for the second time.

3. FC Goa Vs Mumbai City FC: 2018-19 (5-2 agg)

FC Goa have always been the typical possession-loving attacking side since the inception of the ISL. That has seen them win by some stupendous scorelines, like the 7-0 win against the Islanders. This fixture was another thumping of a similar kind, as they met in the playoffs for the first time.

Ferran Corominas
Ferran Corominas topped the goalscoring charts that season (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Mumbai City failed to overcome their glaring weakness, as the Gaurs mauled them 5-1 in the first leg of the tie.  Jackichand Singh, Ferran Corominas and Brandon Fernandes were all on the scoresheet for Goa, as Mourtada Fall scored a brace. Rafael Bastos was the lone goalscorer for Mumbai, as they headed into the second leg with a four-goal margin to overcome.

The Brazilian helped Mumbai City to a 1-0 victory in the second leg, but the Islanders still fell short of three goals. FC Goa marched into the finals with a solid margin, but were beaten by the same scoreline by Bengaluru FC

2. Chennaiyin FC Vs ATK: 2015 (4-2 agg)

One of the ISL’s original rivalries came to life in the 2015 playoffs as Chennaiyin FC battled it out with then titleholders ATK. The first leg was not really a battle as the Marina Machans swept aside their opponents in a 3-0 victory. Bruno Pelissari and Jeje Lalpekhlua scored one goal apiece, as Colombian sensation Stiven Mendoza also graced the scoresheet. 

Fikru’s only goal for Chennaiyin FC came against his former side (Courtesy: Firstpost)

ATK began the second leg in a hopeful manner, as goals from Dejan Lekic and Iain Hume reduced the arrears to one goal. However, their former hero Fikru Tefera turned villain, as he scored against his former employers to put all hopes of a comeback to bed.   

1. Chennaiyin FC Vs FC Goa: 2019-20 (6-5 agg)

The meeting between Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa in 2020 was arguably the creme de la creme in the history of ISL playoffs. Jamshedpur FC’s title-winning coach Owen Coyle was at the helm of Chennaiyin FC during the time, as he achieved another splendid feat.

The Scotsman led the Marina Machans all the way to the final from the bottom of the table, as they met FC Goa along the way. A 4-1 first leg victory was the result as Eli Sabia, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Anirudh Thapa and Lucian Goian got the goals for Chennaiyin. Saviour Gama pulled one back for the Gaurs.

Lallianzuala Chhangte
Lallianzuala Chhangte scored in both legs against FC Goa (Courtesy: ISL Media)

Goa almost came roaring back into the fixture through Lucian Goian’s own-goal and Mourtada Fall’s header in the 21st minute. Chennaiyin were equally driven to go all the way, as Lallianzuala Chhangte popped up once again alongside Nerijus Valskis to score two more. FC Goa matched them equally, as they scored two more through Fall and Edu Bedia, but were beaten eventually. The Marina Machans did progress to the finals, but could not find a fairy-tale finish to their fabulous season. 

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