The penultimate matchweek of the Indian Super League (ISL) proved to be one of the most decisive weeks in the season as the race for the League Shield and the final playoff spot was narrowed down to fewer teams. 

Teams that came out on top in pivotal clashes will live to see another day and those who came up short had to comprehend what went wrong. 

A big matchweek consisting of eight matches saw 24 goals scored with just three teams keeping a clean sheet. There were only two away victories as home sides dominated proceedings in the majority of the encounters. 

As we gear up for the final matchweek of the season, here’s a look at some key takeaways from Matchweek 21. 

Chennaiyin FC thrive on home stretch

Chennaiyin FC have taken giant strides towards the sixth and final playoff spot with victories over Jamshedpur FC and NorthEast United FC at home to get within touching distance of the knockout stage. 

A point against FC Goa or East Bengal FC’s failure to win at Punjab FC could seal their passage to the playoffs. 

Owen Coyle’s side didn’t have it easy and had their full resilience on show as they came from behind in both matches to pick up the win. The victory against the Highlanders was even more dramatic as they trailed their opponents till the 72nd minute only to turn things around and win the match thanks to a 91st-minute Ankit Mukherjee winner. 

Their home form has been the backbone of their playoff bid as they have picked up 19 points at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Chennai which accounts for 70% of their total points this season.

Race for the final playoff spot down to just two teams

Five teams entered Matchweek 21 with their playoff hopes alive but only two teams remain in the battle for the sixth spot come the end of the matchweek. 

Chennaiyin FC’s comeback win against Jamshedpur FC spelt the end of the Red Miners’ hopes who finished the campaign with another loss to FC Goa. Khalid Jamil’s men who looked like a strong contender for the playoff spot failed to win any one of their last five matches leading to their hopes being extinguished. 

East Bengal FC who looked won and out revived their fortunes as they followed up the win at Kerala Blasters FC with a win against Bengaluru FC at home. Their hopes are still dependent on Chennaiyin FC’s result at FC Goa but they can pile significant pressure on Coyle’s side with a win against Punjab FC. 

Bengaluru FC though bowed out of the race with a defeat in Kolkata which saw them go the entire season with an away win. Their record on the road clearly brought their downfall this season. 

In the matchweek’s final match, NorthEast United FC who had their fate in their own hands went out after losing to Chennaiyin FC. Juan Pedro Benali’s men enjoyed a resurgent campaign but it wasn’t enough for them to secure a playoff spot. 

Mohun Bagan SG stand in the way of Mumbai City FC

Mumbai City FC continued their title charge with an impressive win over Odisha FC that brought an end to the Shield hopes of the Kalinga Warriors and FC Goa. The Islanders won their fifth game on the bounce and their eighth in the last ten matches to go five points clear at the top. Petr Kratky’s men have overcome plenty of challenges with frequent injuries and player departures threatening to derail the season but they have been extremely consistent amid the chaos to stand on the brink of glory. 

However, Mohun Bagan Super Giant preserved their League Shield bid with a hard-fought 1-0 win away to Punjab FC and would earn a crack at the league leaders in their final match against them at home if they beat Bengaluru FC at the Sree Kanteerava stadium on Thursday. 

The League Shield race has been an intriguing one and could still have a grandstand finish if the Mariners force it to the final day of the season. 

FC Goa continue to battle for a top-two finish

The Gaurs who saw their League Shield challenge fall apart in the second half of the season picked up some form in MW21 which could still yield crucial rewards for Manolo Marquez’s side. A strong second-half display that saw Noah Sadaoui claim a hat-trick helped them to a 4-0 win against Hyderabad FC. They then followed that up with a dramatic win against Jamshedpur FC at the Furnace with Borja Herrera scoring a 95th-minute winner. 

The Gaurs can still finish in the top two and directly qualify for the semi-finals if they beat Chennaiyin FC in their final match and Mohun Bagan SG lose one of their remaining two matches.