MW22 takeaways: ATK Mohun Bagan’s derby dominance, Kerala Blasters' form and more
The final matchweek of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 concluded where it all started – in Kochi, as Kerala Blasters FC suffered a narrow defeat to Hyderabad FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium.
The final playoff spot was decided but not before one final twist in the tale as Odisha FC pipped FC Goa to the sixth and final knockout berth.
The Kalinga Warriors though got Matchweek 22 underway with a defeat to Jamshedpur FC, their passage was sealed with Bengaluru FC’s 3-1 win over FC Goa. Then, Chennaiyin FC edged NorthEast United FC in a seven-goal thriller before ATK Mohun Bagan once again prevailed in the Kolkata derby. Hyderabad FC ended the season on a winning note with a success away to Kerala Blasters FC.
Here are key takeways from Matchweek 22:
Jamshedpur FC end season with a bang
It was a season to forget for last year’s League Shield Winners, Jamshedpur FC, who finished tenth in the Hero ISL this season. Despite the disappointment, they finished strongly with a 2-0 win over Odisha FC in Bhubaneswar, becoming the only team after Mumbai City FC to win at this venue this season.
The Red Miners picked up form in the final games of the season setting them up well for the Super Cup and the AFC Champions League playoff that is to follow. Their 2-0 win over the Juggernauts had put them in danger of missing out on the playoff spots but results elsewhere helped their case.
As for Aidy Boothroyd, it gives them much-needed momentum going into next season with Jamshedpur FC being the third-best team in the league since the turn of the year. There is a silver lining to their dark cloud.
FC Goa fall short as Odisha FC make history
FC Goa were thrown a lifeline after Odisha FC lost to Jamshedpur FC but they found the marauding Bengaluru FC too strong at the Sree Kanteerava stadium as they fell to a 3-1 defeat. It was a closely-fought encounter for most parts with the game locked at 1-1 but as FC Goa went chasing the all-important winner, Bengaluru FC were able to profit on the counter-attack and score twice to end their hopes.
However, defeat for FC Goa meant Odisha FC qualified for the playoffs for the first time in their history. Josep Gombau’s men have had an up-and-down season but in the end, did just enough to enter the history books.
Talking about history, Bengaluru FC extended their record winning streak to eight matches and look in ominous form heading into the playoffs.
Chennaiyin FC and NorthEast United FC’s last dance
Chennaiyin FC and NorthEast United FC only had pride to play for in the final match in Chennai and the two teams played as if it was a final. Not giving an inch to their opponents, both teams had a go and the result was a seven-goal thriller that was only decided in the final minutes with Chennaiyin FC grabbing a late winner through Sajal Bag.
The win meant Chennaiyin FC finished level on points with FC Goa, but for NorthEast United FC it was their 17th defeat of the campaign. They finished with just five points which is the lowest tally by any team in Hero ISL history.
ATK Mohun Bagan extend derby dominance
ATK Mohun Bagan have had an inconsistent campaign by their standards but there was nothing inconsistent about their dominance in the Kolkata derby that ended with a 2-0 win over East Bengal FC on Saturday.
This was the Mariners’ sixth straight win over their arch-rivals and it also helped them secure a third-place finish, which in turn, assured them a home tie in the eliminator against Odisha FC.
It was a keenly-contested game in front of a great crowd in Kolkata but ATK Mohun Bagan’s quality prevailed once again as they walked home with the bragging rights again.
Kerala Blasters FC’s worrying form
Kerala Blasters FC fell to their third successive defeat as they were beaten 1-0 by Hyderabad FC in Kochi. Ivan Vukomanovic’s men made the cut to the playoffs but their recent dip in form meant they will have to play the eliminator match away from home.
Their record on the road has been below par this season and they would need to get past an in-form Bengaluru FC to earn a semi-final against League Shield Winners Mumbai City FC.
Collecting just six points from their last eight games, the Blasters will go into the playoffs with a form that will concern their fans. Vukomanovic will need to ready his troops to produce a performance like they did against Hyderabad FC earlier this season if they are to stop Bengaluru FC in Bengaluru, a feat which they have never managed in their history.
Kerala Blasters FC face a tall order to repeat last season’s heroics and their recent form doesn’t bode too well for them but the Yellow Army will bank on their Serbian head coach to inspire a turnaround which is something Vukomanovic has always managed to do when the chips are down.