Hero ISL 2020-21: A season of many firsts
The 2020-21 Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) culminated in Mumbai City FC winning their maiden trophy following a 2-1 win over ATK Mohun Bagan in the final last week. This season was unique on many counts, first and foremost it was played just across three venues in Goa and behind closed doors on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, there were quite a few firsts this season as the quality of football, particularly from Indian players, reached even greater heights. Here we take a look at some of the firsts or uncommon happenings from the season gone by.
Maximum teams, maximum matches
As many as 11 teams participated in the 2020-21 Hero ISL. Two new teams – ATK Mohun Bagan (after ATK FC and Mohun Bagan AC joined hands to become one entity) and SC East Bengal – joined the league ahead of the season, making it the biggest season yet. As a result, a whopping 115 matches were on view. Last three seasons, there were 95 matches on display.
The renowned Kolkata derby came to the Hero ISL this season with the inclusion of ATK Mohun Bagan and SC East Bengal. Both matches were surrounded by tremendous hype in the build-up, however, the Mariners clinched both the contests convincingly against the Red and Gold Brigade -- first 2-0 and then 3-1. Roy Krishna scored in either of the contests.
Highest-scoring game in Hero ISL history
Odisha FC and SC East Bengal featured in a high-octane contest in the last round of the league stage. As many as 11 goals were scored in the match as Odisha FC pipped the Red and Gold Brigade 6-5. Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Paul Ramfangzauva scored a brace each for Odisha FC while the other two goals came from S Lalhrezuala and Diego Mauricio. For SC East Bengal, Aaron Joshua Holloway scored twice while Anthony Pilkington and Jeje Lalpekhlua scored once each. The remaining goal was an own goal by Odisha FC goalkeeper Ravi Kumar. The previous Hero ISL record of maximum goals in a match was nine.
Longest penalty shootout
As many as 18 spotkicks were taken during the second leg of Semi-final 1 between FC Goa and Mumbai City FC and eventually the latter won 6-5 in sudden death. The previous record was 10 spotkicks and it came to pass in 2016 in ATK FC’s 4-3 win on penalties over Kerala Blasters FC. Only Bartholomew Ogbeche and Raynier Fernandes converted their spot-kicks for Mumbai City FC, while Igor Angulo and Ivan Gonzalez netted for FC Goa as the match went into sudden death. Mourtada Fall, Amey Ranawade and Mandar Rao Dessai netted in sudden death for Mumbai City FC, whereas Ishan Pandita, Jorge Ortiz, Adil Khan all scored their penalties for FC Goa, but Glan Martins’ miss allowed Rowllin Borges to score from the spot and book Mumbai City FC’s berth in the final.
Longest unbeaten streak
FC Goa went unbeaten 13 games to set a new record in terms of the longest unbeaten streak. The previous record was 12 games which they shared with Mumbai City FC and Hyderabad FC. The Gaurs had done it across the 2014 and 2015 seasons while the Islanders and Hyderabad FC went unbeaten 12 games in the season just finished. Later in the season, the Gaurs, after a 0-0 draw against the Islanders in the second leg of Semi-final 1, extended their unbeaten streak to 13 games and set a new record.
Top two teams tied on points
For the second time in Hero ISL history, the top-two teams were tied on points at the end of the league stage. However, Mumbai City FC finished ahead of ATK Mohun Bagan on account of their accumulating more points against the Mariners in the league stage as they won both their matches against Antonio Lopez Habas’ men. In 2018-19, Bengaluru FC and FC Goa were tied on 34 points at the end of the league stage. By sealing the top spot, the Islanders claimed the League Winners Shield as well as a place in next year’s AFC Champions League.