There were plenty of captivating matches, but a few stood out from the rest.
The USP of any competition is the quality of players featuring in it and the contest on show. In that respect, the Indian Super League has produced another season of scintillating games for us. The 2020-21 campaign was the longest yet in ISL history with more teams joining the fray. Despite the obvious disappointment of the absence of fans, the action and fireworks on the pitch didn’t stop.
Great goals, crunching tackles and moments of magic adorned the 2020-21 season and plenty of sparks went off in another campaign to remember. That said, here we look at the top five games of the season:
5. ATK Mohun Bagan 3-2 Kerala Blasters
The second league game between rivals ATK Mohun Bagan and Kerala Blasters offered a scintillating match, where the Kolkata club came from behind to win the game against the Men in Yellow.
Kerala Blasters had a dream start to the game when Gary Hooper put them ahead in the 14th minute with a smashing finish. The Blasters were on cloud nine when Costa Nhamoinesu doubled their lead at the start of the second half.
But, if there is one thing that ATK Mohun Bagan have mastered under Antonio Habas, it is the never-say-die spirit. The Mariners found the light at the end of the tunnel with a goal from Marcelinho, who became only the third player in ISL history with 50 goal contributions (after Sunil Chhetri and Ferran Corominas).
Having found an opening, ATK Mohun Bagan pressed on the accelerator towards their comeback and who else to inspire it than Roy Krishna. Cometh the hour, cometh the man and Krishna restored parity in the game with a penalty in the 65th minute and just when it seemed like a draw could be on the cards, he latched onto a loose ball and smashed the winner home to complete a sensational comeback for the Mariners.
It was a win reminiscent of ATK Mohun Bagan’s soldier-like durability and their desire to never give up. As for Kerala Blasters, they were left to wonder what hit them.
4. Mumbai City FC 3-3 FC Goa
The two most prolific teams in the season faced off against each other in a six-goal cliffhanger. It was normal service at the start for the Islanders, who romped to a 2-0 lead before the half hour mark. However, Goa pulled it back first through a sensational strike from almost 35 yards out from Glan Martins and then by Igor Angulo.
With the score set at 2-2, both teams seemed to let it remain the same until the final whistle, but not Rowllin Borges, who scored at the start of stoppage time to give Mumbai the lead. Just when you thought Mumbai might nick this, Ishan Pandita dealt the final blow in a topsy-turvy encounter, scoring at the dying moments of the game to give his side a point. Perhaps a fair result considering how much each team wanted it.
3. Mumbai City FC 2-2 FC Goa (A.E.T 0-0)
When you have two teams with the quality of the ilk of Mumbai City FC and FC Goa, there is always bound to be excitement. That excitement was palpable when the two teams met recently in the second leg of their semi-final clash. Going into the game with the aggregate tied at 2-2, both teams struggled to break the other’s resistance and it ended a stalemate at the end of regular time with extra-time to come.
Extra-time also could not separate these two teams, as neither wanted to give it away in the pressure moments. It came down to a penalty shootout where the goalkeepers did a splendid job of keeping the opposing team’s attempts at bay. But, Rowllin Borges kept his nerve to score the deciding kick and send Mumbai City into their maiden final in the ISL and break FC Goa hearts.
2. NorthEast United FC 1-0 Mumbai City FC
An early-season upset which no one saw coming. Mumbai City FC came into their first game of the season with a new coach, new approach, a strong squad and backed by the formidable City Football Group.
They came into their game against NorthEast United as favourites, but the Highlanders sprang a surprise on the Sergio Lobera-led side. Kwesi Appiah’s 49th minute penalty and a spirited defensive performance meant that NorthEast eked out a shock 1-0 victory.
Mumbai threw absolutely everything they had at NorthEast, but couldn’t break their indomitable resistance as the Highlanders started their season on a spectacular note.
1. Odisha FC 6-5 SC East Bengal
The highest-scoring game in the history of the ISL is sure to feature at the top of our list for this season. What a game it was! Odisha and East Bengal came in as the two-bottom placed sides, but little did they know that they would be part of a historic night.
The attackers of both teams had an absolute ball as the goals kept coming at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim. At the end of the 90 minutes, it totalled 11 goals with the scoreline reading 6-5 in favour of the Juggernauts.
For Odisha, braces from Paul Ramfangzauva and Jerry Mawihmingthanga along with goals from Diego Mauricio and Lalhrezuala meant Odisha had one better in the tank than their opponents on the day. The defensive woes of both teams were further exacerbated, but they were soon forgotten as neither could stop scoring. For East Bengal, Aaron Holloway scored a brace, Jeje Lalpekhlua and Anthony Pilkington scored once and Ravi Kumar turned one ball into his own net.