56 games. 121 goals. 379 saves. And non-stop action throughout. The inaugural Hero Indian Super League (ISL) season has enthralled crowds across the eight venues and audiences nationwide. As the league heads into the semifinals, let’s have a look back on how the teams have fared in their run to semi finals.
Resurgence of FC Goa
FC Goa’s stunning form was the story during the second half of the league phase. Languishing at the bottom of the table at the midway point, Brazil legend Zico’s charges went all seven games unbeaten. The turnaround was evident at both ends of the pitch.
After five goals in their first seven games, the Goa attack exploded to score 16 goals in the next seven, with Czech striker Miroslav Slepi?ka (5 goals, 4 assists) and Brazilian André Santos (4 goals – 3 in the second half of the season – and 3 assists) leading the way.
And a defence which had kept only one clean sheet during the first seven games morphed into a solid unit, letting in only three goals and keeping four clean sheets, and keeper Jan Šeda is now leading the race for the Golden Glove award. Goa narrowly missed out on top spot, drawing their final game against Kolkata – a win would have moved them up to first.
?Chennaiyin FC consistent throughout
Marco Materazzi’s Chennaiyin FC ended the first half of the league phase in second place, level on points with Atlético de Kolkata but behind on goal difference. A 3-1 win over FC Pune City took them to top spot, which they did not relinquish for the rest of the season.
They lost league top-scorer Elano and the team’s second-leading scorer Stiven Mendoza to injury, but Bruno Pelissari stepped into the void and scored some spectacular goals to ensure the Chennaiyin juggernaut rolled on.
Topsy-turvy from Atletico de Kolkata
Kolkata’s indifferent form was a surprise. After leading the league at the midway point, they won only once in the second half of the season. The goals dried up for Antonio López Habas’ side. Having scored 12 in their first seven games, Kolkata scored only five in their next seven. They nearly slipped out of the semifinal spots entirely.
With less than half an hour left in their final game, Kolkata were heading out of the tournament. Star striker Fikru’s penalty levelled the scores against Goa and earned them the point they needed to qualify for the semifinals.
Sandip Nandy, Kerala Blasters hero, helps seal semi final berth in dramatic fashion
Kerala Blasters FC rode their defensive solidity into the top four. David James’ side conceded just five goals in seven matches in the latter half of the league, finishing with the best goals against record (11) among the eight teams.
Their strikeforce continued to struggle, hitting the back of the net only four times in the seven games, but Kerala did just enough to make it into the semis. A 1-0 win against Pune City in their last match booked their semi final spot.
Unlucky Delhi fall just short
Delhi Dynamos FC, Pune City, NorthEast United FC, and Mumbai City FC were left on the outside looking in. Delhi came closest, with Brazilian wizard Gustavo dos Santos setting the league alight, scoring some brilliant goals. Harm van Veldhoven’s men went unbeaten over their last five matches, including a spirited fightback from 2-0 down against Chennaiyin to get a draw in their final game, but it was not enough, with Kolkata’s draw against Goa knocking Delhi out.
Meanwhile, Franco Colomba’s Pune City, third at the halfway point, suffered a downturn in form, losing four of their last seven games. A win over Mumbai City gave them hope, but losses to Delhi and Kerala ultimately spelled doom for the Pune club.
Looking forward to ISL 2015
Peter Reid’s Mumbai City had ended the first half of the season in fourth. But the defensive solidity that had underpinned their surge into the top four disappeared during three straight losses – 3-0 to Chennaiyin, 4-1 to Delhi, and 2-0 to Pune City – and the strikeforce never got it going, scoring four goals over the last seven games.
NorthEast were marginally better, scoring five – three in a stunning win over Chennaiyin that revived their semifinal hopes, but that was their only win during the second half of the campaign. However, head coach Ricki Herbert has built a strong team with a young Indian core which will have gained immensely from their ISL experience.
Road to semis
§ Unbeaten against Kerala Blasters in their 2 games
§ 2 out of their 3 defeats have come in the last 4 games
§ Just one win in last 4 games
§ Scored most number of goals in the league so far (24)
§ Terrific comeback to win 5 out of their last 8 games
§ Unbeaten in their last 8 games
§ Lost 4 out of their first 6 games
§ Yet to win against Atlético De Kolkata. Managed to score 1 point out of possible 6
§ 5 clean sheets in 14 games
Atlético De Kolkata
§ Least number of wins (4) amongst the four teams qualified for the semi finals
§ No wins in their last 10 games
§ 3 out of their 4 wins have come in their first four games
§ 7 draws in 14 games. Most in the entire league’
§ Last team to qualify for the semi finals
§ Least number of goals scored in the entire league (9)
§ Also, conceded least number of goals in the entire league (11)
§ Started their campaign with back to back defeats
§ Lost 3 games in their first 5 games
§ Just 2 wins in their first 8 games
§ 3 wins in their last 6 games
December 13, 2014: Kerala Blasters FC vs Chennaiyin FC (in Kochi) First Leg
December 14, 2014: Atletico De Kolkata vs FC Goa (in Kolkata) First Leg
December 16, 2014: Chennaiyin FC vs Kerala Blasters FC (in Chennai) Second Leg
December 17, 2014: FC Goa vs Atletico De Kolkata (in Goa) Second Leg