The ultimate game of every season has provided some memorable moments and loads of late drama.
It is without doubt that the Indian Super League (ISL) has been the most influential factor in Indian football ever since its inception in 2014. Since then, the league has been improving in stature, with players from all over the world plying their trade, thereby increasing its popularity and potential for growth.
One reason for the league’s increasing popularity is the level of matches that are on show and the players who have put up stellar performances. None of these matches come bigger than the final, which has given us some memorable moments over the years. Close shaves last-minute goals, the euphoria and the agony are what contribute to a great spectacle and none embodies this better than the ISL final.
Ahead of the 2020-21 showdown between Mumbai City FC and ATK Mohun Bagan, we relive the best moments of the finals over the years.
The inaugural final proved to be the ideal platform for the Indian Super League, as the two most-followed teams in the league faced off in the final – ATK and Kerala Blasters.
Playing in front of a 36,000-strong crowd at the Dr. DY Patil Stadium, the two teams faced plenty of jitters natural of a final. As the game teetered towards a goalless stalemate, extra-time seemed imminent. But, a last-minute corner proved to be the decisive moment as Mohammed Rafique headed in the 95th minute to hand ATK the title and break Kerala Blasters’ hearts. It would prove to be the theme a few years later in the same stage and thereby steeped the rivalry between these two teams.
The final of 2015 season saw Chennaiyin FC face FC Goa. Chennaiyin FC came into the final on the back of vanquishing the defending champions ATK and FC Goa defeated Delhi Dynamos.
Bruno Pelissari put the Marina Machans in front in the 54th minute, but Chennaiyin’s advantage was short-lived, as Goa equalized through Semboi Haokip. Just when it seemed like it could be parity at the end of the 90 minutes, Jofre Mateu slotted home three minutes from time to give Goa the lead.
With the home team upbeat having taken the lead, things quickly turned sour after Chennaiyin dramatically turned the tables when Stiven Mendoza scored twice in the final three minutes to complete a stunning comeback and win their inaugural ISL title.
For the second time in three seasons, Kerala Blasters and ATK faced off in the final at the Kochi Stadium. Playing in front of a vociferous crowd helped as Kerala Blasters opened the scoring through Mohammed Rafi, but Henrique Sereno equalized for the visitors.
Unlike two years ago, this time there was no late drama, as the game went to penalties to send the crowd from cheers to prayers. But, once again, Kerala were to face heartbreak as they lost out 3-4 in the shootout and squandered the title to ATK, this time in their own backyard.
The 2017-18 season saw Bengaluru FC feature against their rivals Chennaiyin in the final. The then Albert Roca-led side were looking to cap off a historic first season in the ISL, where they finished eight points clear at the top and blazed opponents away. The two top teams in the division squared off in the final at a packed, raucous Kanteerava Stadium.
But, the Marina Machans proved to be party spoilers as they romped to their second ISL title by winning 2-3 on the night. It started perfectly for the home team as Sunil Chhetri put them ahead, but Mailson Alves put in an inspirational performance on the night scoring a brace. He delivered an all-round show in attack and defence along with the able Inigo Calderon and Henrique Sereno.
Raphael Augusto added to the tally for the Marina Machans, which put the tie beyond the reach of Bengaluru. Miku’s late goal just proved to be a consolation.
In the 2018-19 season, the two top sides of the ISL featured in the final as Bengaluru FC and FC Goa locked horns in the summit clash at the Mumbai Football Arena. In what proved to be a cagey affair, the match went into extra-time to build the tension that already came with a final.
When it seemed like we would be going to penalties, up stepped Rahul Bheke to head in the winner. His goal capped a historic night for Bengaluru FC, as they became ISL champions for the first time. It also helped soothe the pain the side faced after losing the final in the previous season at home to rivals Chennaiyin FC.
It was another dagger in the heart of FC Goa and their fans, as their side showed great flair and promise during the season to only face heartbreak in the final.
The previous season saw the erstwhile ATK faceoff with two-time champions Chennaiyin FC at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa. The game was played behind closed doors due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both teams went into the game with their third ISL title up for grabs, but it was the men from the “City of Joy” who had joy at the end of the 90 minutes. They comprehensively won 3-1 against the Marina Machans to lift their third title, thereby becoming the most successful club in the history of the ISL. Javi Hernandez scored a brace, including a goal in the final moments to put the game beyond Chennaiyin’s reach, while Edu Garcia netted at the start of the second half.
Nerijus Valskis pulled one back, but it was only consolation as Javi Hernandez put ATK on their way to the title.