It was a season full of enthralling games, high-profile transfers, controversies and more.
The 2019-20 ISL season provided us plenty of moments to cherish and gape at with astonishment and appreciation for the performances on show. In a competition that provides so much of action and entertainment, it was a tough job to do, but we did manage to pick out five of the most defining moments of the campaign.
Here they are:
5. ATK rope in David Williams and Roy Krishna
ATK went on to win their third league crown after a victory over Chennaiyin FC in the final. However, the bells were ringing for the momentous occasion right from the start of the season, when the Kolkata-based club managed to snap up David Williams and Roy Krishna from Wellington Phoenix. Both were coming off very successful individual campaigns with the former scoring 11 goals in 25 games and the latter going one step better with 19 in 27 games.
The experience of the duo was a massive boost to ATK’s title credentials, as they struck a chord on the pitch very quickly and played a pivotal role in the title run with important goals. Williams tallied seven and provided five assists in 18 games, while Krishna struck 15 goals and recorded six assists in 21 games – a goal contribution every match!
ATK reaped a gold mine with the combination of these two and it took them all the way in their quest for glory.
4. Chennaiyin FC appoint Owen Coyle as head coach
It was all going downhill for Chennaiyin FC early this season. Bottom of the table and goalless after their first four league games, the Marina Machans were staring down an abyss under John Gregory. They needed intervention and inspiration from somewhere.
In stepped former Bolton Wanderers and QPR manager Owen Coyle, who not only steadied the ship but also got Chennaiyin back to their fluent best. He instilled confidence and an attacking approach. His approach and style of play were reflected in the way his boys responded, with great energy and ruthlessness.
After his appointment, the team went on to win the most number of points in the ISL and also rose from rock-bottom to the playoffs and then the showpiece. This gives evidence of the turnaround he engineered.
3. Asamoah Gyan’s injury hurts NorthEast United
NorthEast United have been perennial strugglers when it comes to scoring goals and desperately wanted a striker who could infuse fresh confidence into the side’s attacking credentials. They got their best bet and considered by some as the best purchase of the season (then), when they announced the signing of Asamoah Gyan.
The experienced Ghanaian ticked all the boxes for NorthEast’s requirement and had a dream start to life in Guwahati, scoring thrice in his first five games. However, an injury mid-season meant his journey was short-lived and he was officially released by the club on 15 January 2020, finishing with four goals and an assist in eight appearances. Not just his goals, his presence was always a huge plus for the Highlanders and meant they were going well when he was on the pitch. They were showing good consistency and a potential to qualify for a second playoffs appearance in two seasons.
However, his absence due to injury brought about a landslide in NorthEast’s performances, as four consecutive away defeats derailed their capaign and saw them plummet down to ninth.
2. Lucian Goian comes back to haunt Mumbai City FC in the do-or-die clash
Chennaiyin FC travelled to Mumbai City in a winner-takes-all contest. Knowing that a draw was enough to keep them in contention for the playoffs.
There was parity till the 83rd minute, when Chennaiyin plucked the lead through their inspirational skipper Lucian Goian, who headed in the winner off a flick-on from Nerijus Valskis following a whipped corner.
The defender came back to haunt his former side with the goal that sent Chennaiyin into the playoffs and their fans into delirium. That also added another page in the record of the Marina Machans’ fairytale run from the obscurity of being bottom-placed all the way to the grand finale.
1. FC Goa sack head coach Sergio Lobera
It came as a rude shock to everyone when in late January, FC Goa decided to part ways with head coach Sergio Lobera, citing intensive internal issues which threatened to boil over and distract the side from their season.
This was surprising, considering that Lobera had made Goa play their best football in terms of fluency and performance and the team was then at the top of the table.
There weren’t also any reports of a rift between the coach and the players, which made this news all the more puzzling and left everyone scratching their heads. FC Goa perhaps lost a bit of momentum psychologically after his departure and eventually capitulated to Chennaiyin in the playoffs.