Jamshedpur FC’s moment to cherish

From Jamshedpur winning its first silverware in history to Bartholomew Ogbeche becoming the joint-highest goal-scorer in a single Indian Super League (ISL) season, here is everything that happened in the last fortnight in the Indian Super League.

Finding the net: Jamshedpur FC’s Ritwik Das scores a goal against ATK Mohun Bagan at the GMC Fatorda in Goa. The 1-0 victory helped Jamshedpur lift its first-ever silverware, the League Winners’ Shield.   -  Focus Sports / ISL

The race for the League Winners’ Shield went right up to the last league fixture, between ATK Mohun Bagan and Jamshedpur FC. While both sides had already qualified for the semifinals of the ISL, it was at this moment the Mariners were denied the League title last year.

This time too, history repeated itself as Owen Coyle’s side beat ATKMB 1-0 with Ritwik Das scoring the winner, to lift its first-ever silverware on March 7.

Defending champion shown the door

Des Buckingham’s side had stumbled mid-season and that proved costly as an injury-hit Mumbai City FC was eliminated in the league stage.

Mumbai’s key striker and last year’s Golden Boot winner, Igor Angulo, failed to find the net on multiple occasions and its midfield talisman Ahmed Jahouh remained off-field with a knee injury as MCFC lost two successive matches to top-four sides Kerala Blasters and Hyderabad FC, during the run-in.

In its last match, a win would have kept MCFC’s hopes for a semifinal place alive, but Manolo Marquez’s Hyderabad put those chances to bed with a 2-1 win over the Islanders.

The loss was more significant for Kerala Blasters. Ivan Vukomanovic’s men qualified for the ISL semifinals for the first time since 2016 and they did so without even kicking the ball as MCFC’s loss booked their berth in the last four.

Ogbeche equals Coro’s record

Bartholomew Ogbeche scored in the first-leg of the second semifinal to equal the record of Ferran Corominas for the most goals scored in a season, taking his goal tally to 18.

The Nigerian had already surpassed Sunil Chhetri to become the highest goalscorer in the league’s history and for Hyderabad FC as well and this record will cement his reputation as a versatile forward in the league — shining for four ISL sides.

COVID hits Hyderabad FC

Manolo Marquez’s boys had comfortably sat on the top of the table and have scored the most number of goals by an ISL side this season. It was no surprise when the side broke into the semifinals for the first time in its brief history with a 2-1 win over Kerala Blasters.

However, after the match, as per the head coach, the players went to the beach and eventually, a number of players turned out COVID-19 positive.

As a result, in its next match, Marquez had its star striker Ogbeche unavailable and his boys were thrashed 3-0 by Jamshedpur FC. Though they returned to winning ways after that match, they had already lost the race for the League title and finished second in the league table with 38 points.

Sahal’s clinical goal

Jamshedpur FC had come into the first-leg of the semifinal, clinching the League and on a record seven-match winning run. Kerala Blasters, on the other hand, had managed to finish fourth, with good play and some fortune.

All of it became irrelevant when the two sides met in the first-leg of the last four. Daniel Chima Chukwu (of JFC) missed several scoring opportunities while Sahal Abdul Samad, after a long ball from Alvaro Vazquez, was right on target to guide KBFC to a 1-0 lead.

Hyderabad FC beats ATK Mohun Bagan

While the first-leg of the first semifinal saw just one goal, the second saw four, with Hyderabad FC earning a two-goal margin against last year’s finalist ATK Mohun Bagan. Hyderabad won the match 3-1 at Bambolim in Goa.

Though ATKMB opened the scoring, with Roy Krishna putting the Mariners in front, Hyderabad struck after the first water break, with Ogbeche finding the breakthrough at the brink of half-time. In the second-half, HFC ran the show, outplaying Juan Ferrando’s side and winning the match in style.

Ever-agile: Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, Kerala Blasters FC’s goalkeeper brings off a spectacular save during the first leg semifinal against Jamshedpur FC. After this match Prabhsukhan took his tally of clean sheets to seven from 18 games.   -  Focus Sports / ISL

 

Prabhsukhan beats Rehenesh in battle of goalkeepers

Kerala Blasters goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Gill and Jamshedpur FC goalkeeper T. P. Rehenesh have been embroiled in a key battle for the Golden Glove and when the two sides met in the first-leg of the semifinal, both had six clean sheets from 17 games.

After the match, it was Gill who came out on top with another clean sheet, denying JFC striker Chukwu and Mobashir Rahman, taking his tally of clean sheets to seven from 18 games.

READ: Kerala Blasters' Prabhsukhan Gill - A tale of patience and vibes

Airam Cabrera stars for Goa in dead rubber

Kerala Blasters, having qualified for the semifinals, was looking to end the league stage on a high against FC Goa. Its intent looked clear and it was 2-0 up midway in the game. In the second-half, FC Goa head coach, Derrick Pereira, subbed on Airam Cabrera and Aiban Dohling — both of whom scored, putting Goa in front temporarily.

Cabrera scored a hat-trick, while Aiban hit a stunner from outside the box. However, two goals in response by KBFC’s super subs — a late goal by Vincy Barretto and a stoppage-time goal by Alvaro Vazquez — ended the match with a 4-4 scoreline.

Though Cabrera could not steer Goa to a win, he finished the campaign as FC Goa’s second-highest goalscorer with six goals and one assist in his debut season in ISL.

RELATED | ISL 2021-22: Entertaining highs, dubious lows

SC East Bengal’s miserable season

SC East Bengal had started the 2021-22 season with a lot of hopes. After 20 matches, the team found itself at the bottom of the table with 11 points — two managers in one season and just one win throughout the campaign, which is a dubious ISL record.

This is the first time in the club’s history that East Bengal (now called SCEB) has finished at the bottom of a national-level league.