That’s it. The end of the 2017-18 ISL regular season has arrived and the last game weekend was one to remember for a few reasons. We had Pune trying to beat Delhi for a chance at a top-two finish. We had Chennaiyin trying to beat Mumbai to secure 2nd place. We had the biggest game of the season as Goa took on Jamshedpur in a winner takes all match for the final spot in the play-offs and then we had the most pointless game of the season, with the bottom two sides, ATK and NorthEast, battling it out for pride and not finishing bottom of the league. Read on as I give the key moments of all the games, even that pointless game between ATK and NorthEast.
Delhi Dynamos 2-2 Pune City
Well, Delhi have gone and done it again, they have gone an upset one of the big four teams. Imagine if they had played like this the whole season, Bengaluru may have had a more difficult task. Delhi were just playing to achieve the highest points tally they could, whilst Pune were trying to put as much pressure on Chennaiyin for 2nd place. However, they just fell short of the mark.
Delhi came flying out of the blocks and went straight at Pune, which Pune did not like at all. The defence of Pune were shook initially and this lead to them giving away a penalty on ten minutes. Up stepped my favourite player right now, Kalu Uche. He smashed it past the keeper to score his twelfth goal of the season.
Pune should have pushed on from this point and they did. Three minutes after Delhi’s penalty, Pune were awarded a penalty. Up stepped ever reliant Alfaro to slot the ball home and draw his team level.
You could tell Delhi were annoyed with themselves for allowing Pune an easy way back into the game. They pushed and pushed for a second goal and they finally achieved it on thirty-four minutes. Uche scoring again and his thirteenth of the season, which is incredible as he had only scored two before Christmas.
Half-time arrived and Delhi were in the driver’s seat, winning the game 2-1. They were dictating the game and if Pune wanted to try and finish 2nd they need to pick themselves up in the second half.
The second half didn’t have the intensity of the first and it looked as if Delhi would hold onto to win the game 2-1. That was until they made a stupid mistake and gave Pune their second penalty of the game. Alfaro, scorer of the first, stepped up again and hammered it home. 2-2, with four minutes to play.
The game ended 2-2 and Delhi ended the season in brilliant for and it’s a shame we won’t see Uche carry on his goalscoring form until the Super Cup fixtures are announced and confirmed. Pune ended up going into 2nd place, a point above Chennaiyin, however, Chennaiyin played the day after and just needed to match Pune’s result. However, the point didn’t secure 3rd place for them so they would have to wait for the Goa vs Jamshedpur result to come in.
Chennaiyin 1-0 Mumbai City
Saturday’s game had 2nd place hunting Chennaiyin play Mumbai City, who were looking to finish as high as possible. Mumbai had their playoff dreams crushed by Delhi earlier in the week so they were just playing for the highest position available to them.
The game started and both teams weren’t in a rush to go out and attack. Mumbai were enjoying the ball a little more and Chennaiyin were happy for them to do this. There wasn’t much to report on in the first half, apart from a few half chances from both sides and a couple of hard tackles that resulted in yellow cards. Pune must have been happy with the half-time score and performance.
The second half started and Chennaiyin had a little more about them, I think they realised that they need to get a goal just to be a little safer for that 2nd place spot and that’s exactly what they got. They were awarded a penalty on sixty-seven minutes, with Rene Mihelic taking and scoring it, to put Chennaiyin 1-0 up.
The rest of the second half was pretty boring. It would have been a much better game had Mumbai gone and beat Delhi earlier on in the week. However, you could tell that defeat had killed all motivation in the team and they didn’t look like scoring.
The game ended 1-0 to Chennaiyin and that meant they had secured 2nd place for the playoffs and would face whoever placed 3rd. Mumbai stayed 7th and they did try for the play-offs, however, they left it a little too late to make the push.
Jamshedpur 0-3 FC Goa
What a game! Both teams had everything to play for and it was all out war between them. The game had three goals, two red cards and much more, it was one for the ages. Both teams wanted to win to secure their position in the top four and the post-season play-offs. Goa had Coro upfront, the league’s top goalscorer, whilst Jamshedpur are known for their fantastic defensive performances.
Before the game could really get going and players could settle in, Subrata Pal was sent off for one of the most deliberate handballs I have ever seen. A long ball was set over to Coro, as he was running onto it Pal ran out of his box and just raised his hand to the ball. It made no sense as it was at head height so he could have just got his head on it. Anyway, the ref showed him a red card and the match continued.
Goa were the better of the two sides and the long ball over the top was really troubling the back four of Jamshedpur. It finally worked when Coro ran on to the end of a ball and slotted it home, 1-0 Goa and they were heading to the playoffs.
The first half ended 1-0 to Goa and Jamshedpur didn’t look anything like the team they had been over the course of the season. Goa looked fired up and seriously dangerous whenever they had the ball. Coro was on form and Lanzarote was commanding the midfield with ease.
The second half started and Jamshedpur didn’t really show any signs of improvement in their motivation. Goa were looking even scarier and dangerous with every attack they had.
It wasn’t long until Goa added a second goal and there was only one man for the job. Coro got his second on fifty-one minutes and Goa took another step towards the play-offs that they had fought for with all their heart. I tell you one thing, I wouldn’t like to be a Jamshedpur player in that dressing room with Steve Coppell at full time.
Jamshedpur were throwing everything they had at Goa after that second goal and were trying anything to get a foot back in the door. However, this left them open at the back and Goa struck again on sixty-nine minutes, nailing the last nail in Jamshedpur’s coffin. Coro turned provider to assist Goa’s other main man Lanzarote.
There was still time for a little more drama as Goa keeper Sudhakaran Naveen decided to copy Pal and get sent off for an obvious deliberate handball. The situation was exactly the same as Pal’s apart from the ball was at chest height and instead of chesting it, Naveen decided to just stick his arm out. The ISL loves to throw up some right weird scenarios.
The game ended 3-0 in favour of Goa. Steve Coppell’s side had choked the play-offs and Goa had completed the ultimate comeback. Their dreams became reality and they now go onto to face Chennaiyin over two legs. The other play-off tie is Bengaluru vs Pune.
ATK 1-0 NorthEast United
I think it’s quite fitting and hilarious that the last game of the regular season was a pointless battle between the two worst teams in the league. Both ATK and NorthEast have been awful over the season and thoroughly deserve to be the bottom two sides. It was a battle to see who would finish bottom of the league, but even I was past the point of caring. One interesting thing was that Westwood had stepped down as ATK head coach a day before the match, very odd timing and it was revealed that Robbie Keane would become a player-manager for their final game.
The game wasn’t the greatest to watch and it proved that both teams truly deserved to be down the bottom as they lacked a lot of quality. They were both struggling to pass five yards and it was just comical at times. Robbie Keane scored on his managerial debut, something I thought I would never say in my life. It was a very cool finish with the outside of his foot on the volley, after a decent ball was smashed over the top.
Other than that goal, the whole game was pretty awful and it was a shame that the ISL had to end like this. Many would have thought, when the fixtures were released, that reigning champions, ATK, would close out the season with a good game, not hoping to avoid finishing bottom.
The game ended 1-0 and the only positive from the game is that Robbie Keane holds a 100% record as a manager, fantastic! ATK finished 9th, whilst NorthEast finished rock bottom. It’ll be interesting to see if Keane takes the role on permanently and whether Avram Grant will stay on, after not impressing whatsoever.
That is it, the ISL season has finished and, although I only joined in January, it has been a fantastic and hectic time and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. You can wipe those tears from your eyes though, as I will be previewing Bengaluru’s AFC journey and all of the upcoming Super Cup games. Let’s not forget about the upcoming play-offs as well, which start this week! Well, that’s it from me for the regular season, thanks for tuning in weekly and onto the play-offs!