Hero ISL Chapter 5: The Blues conquer the crown
The fifth season of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) witnessed some awe-inspiring football and praiseworthy acts of sportsmanship. With the quality of football improving every season, this campaign was no different when it comes to providing some spectacular moments.
The season concluded with Bengaluru FC being triumphant, winning their maiden Hero ISL trophy as they edged past FC Goa in a close finale battle which proceeded to extra-time where Rahul Bheke’s late finish won it for the Blues.
Here’s a look at each team’s journey in the Hero ISL 2018-19 league to refresh your memory.
After a forgettable season in the previous campaign, ATK looked to rebuild their squad in the fifth season of the Hero ISL, as they roped in former Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen to recruit more national players. They hired Steve Coppell as their new head coach for the Hero ISL 2018-19 season. Although ATK had a star-studded team, their performances were below-par, partly due to injuries and partly due to the absence of a clinical finisher in the final third. The Kolkata-based side finished sixth in the league standings with 24 points, missing out on the top four for the second consecutive season.
The Blues had a cracker of a campaign with the newly appointed head coach Carles Cuadrat. Cuadrat incorporated a style of play similar to Roca but adding the missing pieces required to win the title. The Blues under Cuadrat went on a winning spree of six games, and an unbeaten run of 11 games. With another top of the table finish, Cuadrat’s side became the first team to retain the top position in the league for the successive seasons. Chhetri proved his worth yet again as he was the top Indian goalscorer in the league, netting nine times. The Bengaluru-based side faced NorthEast United in the semi-finals, losing 2-1 against them in the away leg, but came back strongly in the second leg to win the tie 4-2 on aggregate. The Blues faced FC Goa in the finals in what was an intense final. After a goalless stalemate in 90 minutes, the game headed into extra-time, with Bheke clinching it for the Blues with a late strike ensuring their first ISL trophy. Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu added feather in the cap as he won the Golden Glove, keeping seven clean sheets with a save percentage of 76.25.
Reigning champions, Chennaiyin FC had a nightmare campaign. They looked like a completely different side than the one which clinched the title last year. The Marina Machans won just two matches, one coming in the first half of the season while the other coming in the latter half. Gregory’s side were clueless and struggled to be efficient, as the side finished bottom of the table with nine points.
The Dynamos appointed Josep Gombau as their new head coach for the Hero ISL 2018-19 season. Gombau had a distinctive philosophy for his side which the players got used to only in the latter half of the season. A squad consisting of young and promising players, Gombau had the vision but struggled with implementation. The Delhi-based side registered only four wins, which came in the second half of the season, finishing eighth in the league table with 18 points.
FC Goa had earned the reputation of being a fearsome team in the Hero ISL in these past two seasons under coach Sergio Lobera. The FC Goa manager got his team playing an even better attacking football in the 2018-19 season and scored the most number of goals for the second consecutive season racking up 36 goals in 18 games, averaging 2 goals per game. They finished the season in second place with 34 points, equalling BFC’s points tally but losing out on head-to-head record. They took on Mumbai City FC in the semi-finals, decimating them 5-1 in the away leg, with the home leg seeing MCFC win 1-0 against a laidback FC Goa, the latter eventually qualifying for the finals with a 5-2 aggregate win. Facing Bengaluru FC in the finals, the Gaurs showed their fighting spirit until the end of the match before conceding a late goal, ultimately losing their second final in Hero ISL. The Gaurs had a season to remember as their star player Ferran Corominas won the Golden Boot for the second consecutive season besides winning the Hero of the League award.
Jamshedpur FC appointed Cesar Ferrando as their new head coach ahead of the Hero ISL 2018–19 season. Ferrando’s side put up some incredible displays losing just three out of 18 games but had an abnormally high number of draws, as they missed out on the top four like the previous year. The Red Miners had a promising squad but were unlucky with injuries that impaired their campaign. The Men of Steel secured a fifth-place finish with 27 points.
Kerala Blasters FC
The Blasters didn’t live upto the hype in the Hero ISL 2018-19 season as the David James led side registered just 2 wins out of the 18 games, not making it to the top four. Things went downhill for the Tuskers as the team was hit by injury concerns throughout the season, and they went on a winless run of 14 matches, finishing ninth in the league table with 15 points.
Mumbai City FC
The Islanders signed Jorge Costa as their new head coach for the Hero ISL 2018-19 season. Costa’s tactical changes made a staggering difference for the Mumbai-based side as they went on a club record equalling unbeaten run of 9 games. Under Costa, they managed the biggest win in the league, a 6-1 drubbing of the Kerala Blasters. The Islanders finished third in the league table with 30 points, securing the semi-final spot. Their semi-final contest against FC Goa was a horror show as the Gaurs beat them 5-1 in the first leg at the Mumbai Football Arena. MCFCwon the second leg 1-0 but it wasn’t enough to send them through. Although they exited at the semi-final stage, goalkeeper Amrinder Singh was colossal at the back for his side, as he kept seven clean sheets, the joint highest with BFC’s Gurpreet Singh Sindhu.
NorthEast United FC
The Highlanders appointed Eelco Schatorrie as their new head coach ahead of the 2018-19 season. Schatorrie was instrumental in helping NEUFC make it to their first-ever top four finish. The Highlanders struggled with injuries and suspensions throughout the league that added instability to their performances. But the Guwahati-based side finished fourth in the league standings with a club record of 29 points, losing the fewest matches and conceding the least number of goals in the league. They played Bengaluru FC in the semi-finals, defeating them 2-1 in the dying moments of the game in the home leg, followed by a 3-0 thumping by the hands of Chhetri and Co in the away leg. The 2018-19 campaign was a remarkable one for the NEUFC.
FC Pune City
After a managerial change early in the campaign after just three matches, FC Pune City struggled to pick up wins and gain momentum to truly get their season up and running. Interim coach Pradyum Reddy did well to steady the ship before Phil Brown took over and helped the Stallions cross the finish line. Pune lost only one of their last eight fixtures and showed their spirit but the Stallions finished their season in seventh place with 22 points, failing to qualify for the semi-finals.