Conceding first, winning it later: A look at some commendable comebacks in Hero ISL history

Achieving the three points is the natural and universal target for any team, but what makes that win merrier is when the team is chasing the game, having conceded goals, and fighting every second to win it.

Above all, when the chips are down, with the team having its back to the wall, that shapes as the ultimate test of a team’s character and strength, which in turn brings out the best out of the team. A comeback win, in football terms, as one would say surely makes the game exceptional.

When Mumbai City FC visited the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai in their battle against Chennaiyin FC in matchweek 6 of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23, prima facie, the Islanders went two goals behind in the early minutes of the game. However, the former Hero ISL champions got their feet running and made a spirited comeback win in a contest that ended 6-2 in their favour. 

To come back from a scoreline of 2-0, the team scored four exquisite goals in the second half as the match marked itself in the history books of the Hero ISL amongst some of the best comeback performances over the years.

Over the course of nine years, the Hero ISL has witnessed several teams going head-to-head against each other. The nail-biting action, the emotions, players striving until the last second to come out on top even after conceding once, twice, or thrice - sounds magnificent! What adds to the fervour are the halftime talks, super subs, and the nerve-wracking end moments of the match. All these moments create an eruption of adrenaline, excitement, and tears of joy in such breath-taking comebacks.

Let us have a look at some of the most scintillating comebacks* in Hero ISL history:

(comebacks* - metric used when teams won the game after going two goals behind)

Delhi Dynamos FC 2-3 FC Goa (December 6, 2015, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi)

A five-goal thriller, with both teams going neck to neck throughout the game but one aced it as they rode on the rush of adrenaline. FC Goa made a second-half electrifying comeback as they scored the winning goal in the 90th minute, through their Spaniard midfielder, Joffre Gonzalez. He rounded the goalkeeper and netted the goal as the celebrations rolled out. The Gaurs were down to two goals at the break, as head coach Zico took over control of the proceedings and made a crucial change that proved to be the deciding factor. Romeo Fernandes came on in the 55th minute and led the comeback as he scored a commendable brace to help FC Goa take the victory on the road.

Jamshedpur FC 3-2 Delhi Dynamos FC (January 21, 2018, JRD Tata Sports Complex, Jamshedpur)

Jamshedpur FC welcomed Delhi Dynamos at the JRD Tata Complex in Jamshedpur for the first time. Carrying on the momentum gained from the first-half strike of Tiri, Jamshedpur FC completed the stunning comeback in front of their home fans as the Red Miners were applauded and cheered on by the supporters from the first minute.

The hosts started the second half on the hunt and got the equalizer back in the first 10 minutes of the half. Yumnam Raju scored the second goal for the team and the comeback was on. No sooner, Trindade Goncalves lifted the roof of the stadium with his match-winner in the 86th minute and completed the nail-biting comeback.

Chennaiyin FC 3-4 NorthEast United FC (October 18, 2018, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai)

A seven-goal thriller, football in all its glory. Chennaiyin FC welcomed NorthEast United FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai. The goals came quickly and came in numbers as six goals out of seven were scored in the first half. An own goal from Rowllin Borges gave the lead to the hosts and a brace from lively Thoi Singh turned up the heat in the stadium. However, a quick-fire ten-minute hattrick from the magician footballer, Bartholomew Ogbeche, calmed all the nerves for the tensed NorthEast United FC fans.

Rowlin Borges made amends for his first-half mistake and gave NorthEast United FC the lead in the 54th minute. The travelling supporters cheered on in unfathomable joy as the team rode on a historical comeback. The match produced one of the biggest comebacks in Hero ISL history and one that will be remembered for a long time in the league’s history.

ATK Mohun Bagan 3-2 Kerala Blasters FC (January 31, 2021, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Margao)

In an edge-of-the-seat contest, ATK Mohun Bagan went against Kerala Blasters FC in a 90-minute stalemate, which saw the visitors control a two-goal lead until the 58th minute, with goals from Costa Nhamoinesu and Gary Hooper. The Mariners got back in the game with the help of Marcelo Pereira’s curling strike followed by Roy Krishna taking charge of the proceedings as he converted the penalty in the 65th minute. The match finally swayed in the favour of the Mariners through Krishna again, as he finished the second-half comeback in the 87th minute.

Jamshedpur FC 2-3 Odisha FC (October 11, 2022, JRD Tata Sports Complex, Jamshedpur)

A game that started with a bang and concluded with a dramatic win. The first goal of the fixture came as early as the third minute with Daniel Chukwu breaking the deadlock for the host, immediately followed by a two-goal cushion with the help of Boris Singh in the 10th minute. Diego Mauricio pulled one back for the visitors in the 17th minute as Odisha FC went into the break with plenty of ground to make up for.

The second half was all about Gombau’s men as they plumbed more pressure on Jamshedpur FC, but the match was only to be decided in the last five minutes. Isaac Chhakchhuak equalized in the 88th minute and Diego Mauricio burst onto the occasion with the final goal of the match in the dying moments as the Juggernauts marched onto the victory.

Chennaiyin FC 2-6 Mumbai City FC (November 12, 2022, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai)

A feisty goalscoring fest that involved eight sublime goals. The hosts were on the receiving end as the visitors scored four goals in the second half. The match started in the favour of Chennaiyin FC, with Petar Sliskovic opening the scoring in the 19th minute. El Khayati doubled the lead in the 32nd minute for Chennaiyin FC, only for their lead to be cancelled out by two goals from Jorge Diaz and Greg Stewart towards the end of the first half.

The second half saw a completely different Mumbai side as they dominated the game right from the get go. The substitutions turned the tide in their favour as three goals in the second half were scored by Mumbai City FC's substitutes. The energy brought on the pitch by the players turned out too explosive to contain as they inflicted a heavy defeat on the hosts.

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