Getting the ball rolling: A look back at all the Hero ISL opening day matches

The kick-off to the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season is just a day away, and as history shows, the opening fixture has always produced cracking moments entailing end-to-end action, with players striving tirelessly to edge out the opponent for the gratifying first win of the season.

With neither team wanting to start the season without clinching all three points, the opening day fixtures are thoroughly anticipated by all sets of fans, especially in a season, which sees the return of spectators after two confined seasons where the tumultuous presence of fans was absolutely missed.

Before Kerala Blasters FC take on East Bengal FC in their home turf at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi, let us take a look at all the opening day fixtures in the Hero ISL.

ATK Mohun Bagan 4-2 Kerala Blasters FC (2021-22 season)

A six-goal thriller opener that saw continuous attacking action from both sides as ATK Mohun Bagan overpowered the Blasters with a two-goal cushion. Although the eventual finalists fought back with two goals, the Mariners asserted their dominance throughout the game and converted their chances, took home the three points, and kept their 100% win record against the Tuskers intact.

Kerala Blasters FC 0-1 ATK Mohun Bagan (2020-21 season)

An edge-of-the-seat contest where the Mariners edged out the Blasters by a goal to nil, courtesy of Fijian striker Roy Krishna who struck the lone goal of the match in the 68th minute. The Tuskers had more of the possession and took more shots but failed to hit it on target whereas the Mariners converted their lone golden opportunity through Krishna who was the difference maker as ATK Mohun Bagan registered their first ever win in the Hero ISL.

Kerala Blasters FC 2-1 ATK FC (2019-20 season)

Nigerian striker Bartholomew Ogbeche struck magic in his debut game for the Tuskers as his brace resulted in a comeback victory over ATK FC who drew first blood with the help of Carl McHugh in the sixth minute at the JLN Stadium in Kochi. A game of two halves, the Blasters managed to put past two goals in the first half while they kept composure and put the pressure on the two-time Hero ISL Champions in the second half who came close but couldn’t manage to find the back of the net.

ATK FC 0-2 Kerala Blasters FC (2018-19 season)

A game, which has invariably produced fascinating moments and has been the perfect thriller, produced yet another gripping opener as Kerala Blasters triumphed ATK FC, netting two goals in the last quarter of the game. The Tuskers dominated the game, having more shots and more possession, and left the Kolkata-based side reeling as they registered yet another opening day victory against their fellow rivals.

Kerala Blasters FC 0-0 ATK FC (2017-18 season)

One of the very few season openers that have ended in a goalless draw, both sides couldn’t find their shooting boots after creating multiple chances as the game swung both ways but neither side could assert their dominance. With big names such as Dimitar Berbatov and Jose Branco on either side, the opening fixture didn’t go as per plan for the fans as they were anticipating it to be a cracking opener given the history of the fixture.

NorthEast United FC 1-0 Kerala Blasters FC (2016 season)

The Highlanders, under their head coach Nelo Vingada, put up a spirited display as they rolled over Steve Coppell’s Blasters side after Katsumi’s lone goal in the 55th minute separated the two sides. The Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati roared with applause after the side clinched the full points and upset the Blasters who were the favourites to win this contest.

Chennaiyin FC 2-3 ATK FC (2015 season)

Portuguese Helder Postiga put ATK FC ahead in the opening 15 minutes of the game, putting the pressure on Chennaiyin FC, but the Marina Machans struck back with an equaliser from Jeje Lalpekhlua. The game provided an end-to-end action as both sides were on their frontfoot, in search of opportunities to take the lead. Two quick-fire goals from Postiga and Valdo gave ATK FC a two-goal cushion, but Chennaiyin FC fought back with a penalty goal from talisman Elano Blumer in the 89th minute. It was too little too late for the Machans as ATK FC swept the three points in what was a compelling game of football.

ATK FC 3-0 Mumbai City FC (2014 season)

The first-ever Hero ISL fixture delivered a mouth-watering contest between these two sides where ATK FC outplayed Mumbai City FC by three goals to nil. The supporters at the Salt Lake Stadium witnessed an electrifying atmosphere as home team ATK FC became the first team to register the first-ever Hero ISL victory, with goals coming from Fikru, Francisco de Borja, and Arnal Llibert.

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