On this day, Hero ISL’s inaugural match set the stage for Indian club football

7 years ago, the first battle commenced in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) between Atlético de Kolkata (ATK) and Mumbai City FC (MCFC) at the former’s home ground - Salt Lake Stadium - scripting a new chapter in Indian football.

A 70,000 strong crowd welcomed the home side into their first-ever appearance and they did not disappoint with a convincing win of 3-0.

The firecrackers went up as the referee blew the kick-off whistle to get the first match of the Hero ISL rolling. The field was graced by superstars and the stadium reverberated with noise, it couldn’t have got any bigger.

Two minutes into the game, then Mumbai City FC captain Syed Rahim Nabi went into the referee's book while the home side was being led by former Liverpool and Barcelona man, Luis García. 5 minutes later, Baljit Sahni found himself one-on-one with Mumbai City FC custodian Subrata Paul. His shot was blocked by the keeper.

The home side dominated the early proceedings with a breakthrough in the 27th minute courtesy of a superb goal from Fikru Lemessa - the first of Hero ISL. Borja Fernandez played a brilliant through ball between the centre-backs for the striker. The goalkeeper came forward to reduce the angle but Fikru chipped him.

In the 39th minute, Syed Nabi was subbed off after he twisted his ankle. Nadong Bhutia came on in his place. Both the teams were competing shoulder-to-shoulder. Numerous challenges and yellow cards kept flying in.

The Islanders continued to seek an equalizer post the half-time interval. Mumbai City gaffer Peter Reid brought on Brazilian, André Moritz for Tiago Ribeiro at the start of the second half, and the attacking midfielder looked threatening going forward.

The visitors continued to ask questions, but against the run of play, midfielder Borja Fernández latched onto a failed clearance by Mumbai City FC, and unleashed an unstoppable volley from 25 yards out, making it 2-0 for Kolkata in the 69th minute.

The home side Custodian Subashish Roy pulled off some vital saves in the last quarter of the hour to maintain his side's 2-goal lead, keeping out Pavel Čmovš' shot from 40 yards out which took a wicked deflection, and also denied a close-range header from centre back Manuel Friedrich.

Substitute Arnal Lilbert capped off a fine evening for the home side, tapping in an inch-perfect cross by Fikru, on the back of a counter-attack in the 92nd minute to make it 3-0 and secure 3 points for the home side.

The inaugural counter served what was to follow in the coming years with trailblazing action and fans cheering louder than ever for their favourite clubs at the Hero ISL since.

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