Instances Hero ISL teams overcame first leg semi-final defeats to reach the final

The second leg fixtures of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 semi-finals are almost upon us and the final charge to make it to the final will see FC Goa host Chennaiyin FC at the Fatorda on Saturday and ATK FC welcome Bengaluru FC to Kolkata on Sunday. As things stand, both home teams have tough asks on their hands, needing to overturn first leg defeats.

While ATK will go into Sunday's match looking to bounce back from a 1-0 defeat in the first leg at the Sree Kanteerava, Goa, on the other hand, have left themselves with a much steeper slope to climb courtesy a 4-1 defeat in Chennai. Both sides will be up against the odds in the coming weekend, but history suggests all hope is not lost yet. In the ten sets of Hero ISL semi-finals played over the last five seasons, only twice have teams bounced back from defeats in the first leg to progress to the final. Turning the clock back, here's a look at the two instances where the feat was achieved.

FC Goa vs Delhi Dynamos FC (Hero ISL 2015)

The Gaurs will be eyeing one of the biggest comebacks in Hero ISL history coming Saturday, but the fans can take heart from the fact that Goa were the first team ever to have successfully overturned a first leg semi-final defeat and progress to the decider. Back in the 2015 campaign, Zico's Goa lost the first leg 1-0 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi, with Robin Singh scoring the solitary goal for the Lions. The reverse leg at the Fatorda saw Goa take the tie by the scruff of the neck and grab an early goal in the 11th minute through Jofre. Rafael Luiz doubled the advantage just before the 30-minute mark to put the Gaurs in the driver’s seat. After seeing off Delhi for large parts of the second half, striker Dudu Omagbemi sealed the comeback with Goa’s third in the 84th minute. The Gaurs progressed to the finale on the back of a 3-1 aggregate scoreline over the two legs.

Interestingly, in the other semi-final fixture of the 2015 season, Chennaiyin and ATK faced off, with the Marina Machans taking the first leg at home 3-0. ATK fought back in the reverse leg in Kolkata and even registered a 2-1 win but the result wasn’t quite enough as Chennaiyin progressed by the virtue of a 4-2 aggregate scoreline.

Bengaluru FC vs NorthEast United FC (Hero ISL 2018-19)

Fans had to wait for three seasons to witness the next semi-final comeback in Hero ISL. Bengaluru locked horns with Eelco Schattorie’s NorthEast United FC in the first semi-final of Hero ISL 2018-19. In the first leg in Guwahati, the Highlanders took the lead through Redeem Tlang in the 20th minute but in the 82nd minute, Bengaluru’s Xisco Hernandez silenced the home crowd with an equalizer. Schattorie’s men, however, found a way to edge out the Blues as Juan Mascia won and converted a penalty in the dying moments to hand NorthEast a 2-1 win in the first leg. Needing to overcome the deficit in the second leg at the Sree Kanteerava, the Blues dominated proceedings but were, time and again, thwarted by a resolute NorthEast backline. However, the stubborn resistance was brought to an end by Miku in the 72nd minute and the opening goal threw open the floodgates as the home team scored two more to complete a hard-fought comeback. Bengaluru progressed to the final riding on a 4-2 aggregate and eventually went on to clinch the title.

Will we see another similar narrative play out over this weekend? Stay tuned to find out.

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