Hero ISL Chapter 4: An extravaganza of new talents
The fourth edition of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) was unique from the previous ones. There were modifications on the pitch as well as off the pitch. Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) announced the addition of two new teams - Jamshedpur FC and Bengaluru FC - to the Hero ISL that made the season a five-month affair.
In addition, to provide more opportunities to Indian players, the number of foreign players per team was reduced to 8 from 10. Likewise, the maximum number of foreigners allowed on the pitch at the same time was reduced to five from six.
Debutant side Bengaluru FC made it to the final where they showed their resilience but eventually lost against the valiant Chennaiyin FC, with the latter being crowned champions for the second time in four seasons.
The Hero ISL 2017-18 season was the one which was highlighted by milestones and records, joys and upsets, and a lot more. Here’s a recap of each team’s journey during the Hero ISL 2017-18 season.
Former England international striker, Teddy Sheringham replaced Jose Molina as the head coach of ATK ahead of the Hero ISL 17-18 season. ATK didn’t have the best of starts under Sheringham, as they registered just three wins out of 10 games, a run that subsequently cost him his job as head coach. ATK hired Ashley Westwood as the interim coach for the remainder of the season. Westwood took on a sinking ship and tried his best to keep it afloat but couldn’t make the top four for the first time in ATK’s history, as the Kolkata-based side finished ninth in the league standings with 16 points.
The Blues had a near-perfect debut season, finishing on top of the table with 40 points, a feat which was not achieved in the previous seasons. BFC boasted an outstanding away record as well, winning seven out of nine games besides conceding the fewest number of goals in that season. Strikingly, the Blues scored in each of their league outings, with goals coming in from their star player Sunil Chhetri, and Miku. Chhetri scored his second Hero ISL hat-trick, but this time in the Bengaluru colours, becoming the only Indian player to score two hat-tricks in the Hero ISL history, eventually winning Hero of the League in that season. The Blues faced FC Pune City in the semi-finals, winning 3-1 on aggregate before taking on Chennaiyin FC in the finals. Despite some splendid performances, the Blues were on the receiving end in the final, losing 3-2 to a marginally better Chennaiyin FC side.
The Marina Machans signed former Aston Villa manager John Gregory as the new head coach ahead of the Hero ISL 2017-18 season. Although CFC lost their opening fixture to FC Goa, they found their feet, going on an unbeaten run only to be stopped by Mumbai City FC with a 1-0 defeat. Jeje Lalpekhlua led from the front in attack while goalkeeper Karanjit Singh made sure Chennaiyin didn’t leak too many goals as Gregory’s side finished second in the league table with 32 points. They went up against FC Goa in the semi-finals, emerging victorious with a 4-2 win on aggregate scoreline after a 1-1 stalemate in the away leg. The Marina Machans played Bengaluru FC in the finals, a top-quality match with a nail-biting finish, as CFC edged out newcomers BFC 3-2 at their home stadium, winning the coveted ISL trophy for the second time in four seasons.
Delhi Dynamos FC
Miguel Angel Portugal took over as the head coach of Delhi Dynamos ahead of the Hero ISL 2017-18 season. The Dynamos secured the eighth spot in the league standings with 19 points, unable to make it to the semi-finals. The Delhi-based side couldn’t find the right pattern of play and faced several defensive woes throughout the season as they conceded 37 goals, highest in the league.
The Gaurs signed Spanish football manager Sergio Lobera on a two-year contract. FC Goa thrived under Lobera as they played attacking football and became one of the most intimidating sides in the league. The Gaurs scored an astonishing 43 goals in 20 games, averaging more than 2 goals per game. Their marquee signing Ferran Corominas (Coro) went on a goalscoring spree, netting 18 times for his side. Coro also became the first player in ISL history to score back-to-back hat-tricks alongside creating a record for the most goals by a player in a single campaign, eventually winning the Golden Boot that season. The Gaurs finished third in the league table with 30 points, qualifying for the semi-finals. They lost 4-2 on aggregate to Chennaiyin FC in the semi-finals, unable to score a single goal in the away leg after a 1-1 tie at their home ground.
Newcomers Jamshedpur FC signed former Kerala Blasters’ manager Steve Coppell as their new head coach ahead of their inaugural Hero ISL season. Jamshedpur started their season with three consecutive draws followed by a win against Delhi Dynamos. The Red Miners registered five wins out of nine games in the second half of the season, yet they fell short as they lost the last two games, eventually finishing 5th in the league standings with 26 points, missing out on the top four. Their wonderkid, Jerry Mawihmingthanga wrote his name into the history books by scoring the fastest goal in the league history at 22.6 seconds against Kerala Blasters. Further, goalkeeper Subrata Paul’s heroics at the goalline saw him winning the Golden Glove that season as he had a save percentage of 75.8, which was highest in the league.
Kerala Blasters FC
The Blasters appointed Rene Meulensteen as their new head coach prior to the start of the Hero ISL 2017-18 season. Meulensteen couldn’t make much of a difference to the Blasters’ side as they registered only one win out of eight games, subsequently receiving the sack. Former coach David James was called in as the caretaker manager for the remainder of the season. James brought some life to this team as they won five of the remaining ten games, with Canadian striker Iain Hume scoring a hat-trick against the Delhi Dynamos, becoming the first-ever player to score three hat-tricks in the ISL. The Tuskers finished sixth in the league table with 25 points.
Mumbai City FC
Guimaraes led the Islanders for his second successive Hero ISL season. MCFC registered just 7 wins out of 18 games, finishing seventh in the league standings with 23 points. Guimaraes couldn’t work the magic again with his team as the squad continuously delivered underwhelming performances. The foreign signings couldn’t find the right chemistry and things just didn’t go as planned for MCFC.
NorthEast United FC
The Highlanders appointed Joao Carlos as their head coach ahead of the Hero ISL 2017-18 season. Nothing went right for NEUFC under Carlos, as they managed to win only one match out of seven games, Carlos was sacked thereafter. NEUFC roped in former Chelsea manager Avram Grant as the caretaker manager for the rest of the season. They registered two wins under the new manager, but it didn’t last long as the Guwahati-based side went on a 7-game losing streak. The Highlanders concluded the season at the bottom of the table with 11 points.
FC Pune City
The Stallions were led by the newly appointed head coach Ranko Popovic for the Hero ISL 2017-18 season. FC Pune City opened their campaign on a high as they won 3 of their first five fixtures. New signings Emiliano Alfaro and Marcelo Pereira offered extensive support in the attack racking up a team total of 31 goals, reaching new heights for the Stallions. After delivering impressive displays in the league phase, the Pune-based side qualified for the semi-finals as they stood fourth in the league table with 30 points. They faced debutant side Bengaluru FC in the semi-finals. The first leg ended in a goalless draw at their home turf, before ultimately losing the tie 3-1 on aggregate.