After 113 days of footballing action and 298 goals, the 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) finally came to an end in Margao on Saturday, with Mumbai City FC defeating ATK Mohun Bagan 2-1 in the summit clash at the Fatorda Stadium.
MCFC had also won the ISL League Winners’ Shield this year after topping the points table. The latest edition of India’s premier football tournament has witnessed 115 matches across three stadiums – Fatorda, GMC and Tilak Maidan – in Goa.
Here are the top five games of the season:
1) JAMSHEDPUR FC 3 - 2 BENGALURU FC 2 (MATCH 106 - FEBRUARY 25)
Some of the inconsequential encounters in ISL 2020-21 were more entertaining than do-or-die clashes. In one such outing, Jamshedpur FC, which started the game with a bang, took all three points, while Bengaluru FC did not deserve to lose. BFC came out all guns blazing in the second half, trailing 0-3 due to goals from Stephen Eze (16th minute), Seiminlen Doungel (34') and David Grande (41'). The Blues kept pressurising the JFC defence and pulled one back in the 62nd minute via a header from substitute Francisco Gonzalez. They got another one nine minutes later when Sunil Chhetri found the back of the net. Despite Bengaluru's attempts to equalise, the Red Miners held on for a 3-2 win, with some brilliant saves by goalkeeper T. P. Rehenesh.
2) ATK MOHUN BAGAN 2 - 1 NORTHEAST UNITED FC (SEMIFINAL 2ND LEG - MARCH 9)
A victory over NorthEast United in a thrilling second leg of its semifinal tie took ATK Mohun Bagan to the ISL 2020-21 final. ATKMB had dominated the first half and ended it with a 1-0 lead courtesy of a superb finish from David Williams. NEUFC started the final 45 minutes on an attacking note. However, a brisk counter-attack from the Mariners saw them double their advantage, with Manvir Singh providing the finishing touch. The Highlanders did not lose hope as they managed to pull a goal back in the 74th minute, thanks to a header from Suhair VP. The comeback looked to be complete when NorthEast was awarded a spot-kick in the 81st minute. But Luis Machado blasted his attempt over the bar. From there, ATKMB managed to keep its lead and win 2-1.
3) ODISHA FC 6 - 5 SC EAST BENGAL (MATCH 108 - FEBRUARY 27)
This game was another dead rubber, which ended up being the match with the most goals (11) in ISL history. It was complete mayhem in the second half, during which Odisha FC scored five times and SC East Bengal thrice. Bottom-placed OFC didn't have a single Indian goal-scorer up until this entertaining encounter.
But Sailung Lalhrezuala, Paul Ramfangzauva and Jerry Mawihmingthanga finally came to the party, with the last two bagging braces. Diego Mauricio added a sixth in the 69th minute as the Kalinga Warriors led 6-3. Jeje Lalpekhlua's first goal since 2019 and Aaron Amadi-Holloway's second on the night salvaged some pride for SCEB, which ended its debut ISL season ninth, only above Kerala Blasters FC and Odisha.
4) MUMBAI CITY FC 3 - 3 FC GOA (MATCH 87 - FEBRUARY 8)
Whenever Sergio Lobera faces his former club, entertainment is a guarantee. It all started when Mumbai City FC playmaker Hugo Boumous scored in the 20th minute. Six minutes later, Adam Le Fondre doubled the lead with a header. As the Islanders looked set to end the first half holding a 2-0 advantage, Glan Martins' rocket from the midfield pulled one back for FC Goa before the break.
The Gaurs started the second half with purpose. They reaped the rewards for their urgency in the 51st minute when Igor Angulo slotted the ball home from close range. MCFC sprang into action after that goal, but it had to wait until the 90th minute when Rowllin Borges poked his side in front. However, the drama didn't end there as Ishan Pandita came on as a substitute for Goa in stoppage time and found the equaliser in the dying moments.
5) ATK MOHUN BAGAN 3 - 2 KERALA BLASTERS FC (MATCH 78 - JANUARY 31)
This match could have been the best of the tournament if not for the February frenzy. ATK Mohun Bagan trailed Kerala Blasters FC for 51 minutes, but in the end, it won the see-saw battle 3-2. KBFC ended the first half with a slender 1-0 lead, thanks to a Gary Hooper stunner. It came out after the break and doubled its advantage in only five minutes via Costa Nhamoinesu.
The second goal sparked ATKMB to life. Marcelinho pulled a goal back in the 59th minute. Six minutes later, Kerala conceded a penalty, which Roy Krishna converted to bring his team level. With the deficit wiped out, the Mariners continued attacking. They eventually found the winner in the 87th minute when Krishna curled one around the keeper. In the end, ATKMB was able to dig deep and complete a comeback to claim the three points.