ISL: Revisiting the iconic semifinal clashes

Sportstar takes a look at five of the iconic Indian Super League (ISL) semifinal clashes from over the years.

Published : Apr 27, 2024 17:23 IST , CHENNAI - 5 MINS READ

Chennaiyin FC players celebrate after their win over FC Goa in 2019-20 season at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai.
Chennaiyin FC players celebrate after their win over FC Goa in 2019-20 season at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai. | Photo Credit: M. VEDHAN

Chennaiyin FC players celebrate after their win over FC Goa in 2019-20 season at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai. | Photo Credit: M. VEDHAN

In the 10 seasons of the Indian Super League (ISL), there have been several thrilling semifinal fixtures which went right down to the wire. While the second leg in the ongoing campaign will likely make the record books, we take a look at the best two-legged semifinal ties from the years gone by.

1. Chennaiyin FC vs FC Goa (6-5) – 2019/20

Possibly the best semifinal tie in ISL history with Chennaiyin pulling off an improbable win over league shield winner Goa. In the first leg in Chennai, back by a boisterous crowd, Chennaiyin blitzed Goa with a 4-0 lead within a 25-minute period with Anirudh Thapa and Lallianzuala Chhangte goals being the best of the bunch. Goa pulled one back in the 85 th minute to give it some hope for the return leg.

In the second leg, Goa scored two quick goals by the 21 st minute, to reduce to deficit to one goal and leave Chennaiyin in a spot of bother. But the away side resisted Goa’s attacking instincts before inflicting killer blows through Chhangte and Nerijus Valskis early in the second half to extend its lead by two away goals. Edu Bedia and Mourtada Fall scored in the final 10 minutes to set up a nervy finish but Chennaiyin hung on to book its place in the final.

2. Chennaiyin FC vs Kerala Blasters (3-4) – 2014

A semifinal tie which provided a much-needed thriller for the newly-launched ISL. The two-legged semifinal had it all. The Blasters blanked its southern rival 3-0 in the first leg with goals from Ishfaq Ahmed, Ian Hume and Sushanth Mathew. Mathew’s goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time was a left-footed curler from over 30 yards and sent the packed Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium into a state of delirium.

Chennaiyin’s response came in the second leg when it levelled the aggregate score in the 90 th minute through Jeje Lalpekhlua to force extra time. In the first period of extra time, Chennaiyin skipper Marco Materazzi received his second yellow card and his marching orders to reduce the home team to 10 men. Then with two minutes left before the penalty shootout, Kerala’s Stephen Pearson stunned the home crowd when he slotted the ball into the net to give the away side the advantage and a path through to the final.

3. Bengaluru FC vs Mumbai City FC (2-2 (9-8p)) – 2022/23

Bengaluru FC which was on a remarkable nine-match winning run, stunned the league shield winner and serial winning-machine Mumbai City FC in the semis. In a tightly-fought contest in Mumbai, Bengaluru drew first blood through Sunil Chhetri, who scored from a corner kick in the 78 th minute.

Mumbai City’s task got harder in the second leg when Javi Hernandez doubled BFC’s advantage in the 22 nd minute but the away side responded through Bipin Singh nine minutes later and then in the second half, Mehtab Singh levelled the scores on aggregate from a corner kick. The end-to-end contest between these two clubs finished 2-2 after extra time before Gurpreet Singh Sandhu came up trumps for BFC in the shootout. Gurpreet, who made a penalty save off Greg Stewart in regulation time, pulled off another penalty save off Mehtab with the shootout level at 8-8 before Sandesh Jhingan scored the winning spot kick.

4. Bengaluru FC vs NorthEast United FC (2-4) – 2018/19

Bengaluru FC had finished top of the ISL league stage for a second successive season but similar to the previous season, where it lost in the final, the 2018-19 campaign looked like it would finish empty-handed after it fell to a 1-2 defeat in the first leg in Guwahati. Xisco Hernandez cancelled Redeem Tlang’s opener but NEUFC took a one-goal lead after a 95th-minute penalty from Juan Mascia.

In the second leg, NEUFC kept Bengaluru at bay for much of the contest but Miku provided the lifeline in the 72 nd minute when he turned in a cross to score one before Dimas Delgado scored in a breakaway to complete the comeback. Skipper Chhetri scored in added time to ensure Bengaluru’s passage to the final, where it beat Goa to win its maiden title.

5. Hyderabad FC vs ATK Mohun Bagan (3-2) – 2021-22

On its way to its first ISL triumph, Hyderabad brought down Kolkata giant Mohun Bagan in the semifinal. In their league meetings, Hyderabad failed to beat the Mariners after being held to a 2-2 draw and falling to a 1-2 defeat in the Covid-19-forced behind-closed-doors season.

In the first leg, Hyderabad pulled off a 3-1 win despite falling behind to a Roy Krishna goal in the 18 th minute. Bartholomew Ogbeche, Mohammed Yasir and Javier Siverio scored to establish a two-goal lead. In the reverse fixture, Krishna scored again in the 79 th minute but Hyderabad held on to sneak through to the final.

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