The Football fever has returned in India with the return of the Indian Super League. ISL, now in its sixth season, is India’s top tier football league along with I-League. In its five-year history, three teams have managed to win the competition with Kolkata and Chennai franchise winning it twice. Bengaluru FC are the defending champions having won the last season’s final against FC Goa with the 117th-minute winner. Here is everything you need to know about the history of ISL winners:
Atlético de Kolkata (2014)
The first season of the ISL started with a lot of expectations from the league to improve the state of football in India. Bollywood stars and Cricketers tried their best to promote the newly formed competition. And it worked with a brilliant response from the crowd. And it was the Kolkata-based franchise, a city known for its love and passion for football, which won the inaugural season with the winning goal late in the injury time.
Eight teams participated in the double round-robin format in 2014 season. Chennaiyin FC finished at the top of the table, courtesy Brazilian attacker Elano, who finished the season as league’s top scorer with eight goals. FC Goa, ATK and Kerala Blasters, led by Iain Hume, were the three other semi-finalists.
The Blasters were too good for Chennai in the semi-final with an aggregate 4-3 victory. Kolkata was the second finalists after defeating Goa on penalties after their two-legged tie finished goalless.
The stage was set up for the first-ever ISL final – Kerala Blasters vs Atlético de Kolkata at the DY Patil stadium in Mumbai. The final seemed to be headed in the extra-time without a goal being scored. But Indian midfielder Mohammed Rafique, Kolkata’s only substitution of the final, in his only second appearance of the season, rose above everyone else in the 95th minute to head the corner in the back of the net. ATK were crowned the champions of the inaugural season of ISL!
Chennaiyin FC (2015)
The second season of ISL was set to be more popular with Sunil Chhetri playing in the league for the very first time. The Indian captain represented Mumbai City and was the top Indian scorer with 7 goals. But Chennai’s Columbian striker Steven Mendoza stole the limelight with league-best 13 goals.
There were several familiar faces in the top four once again with Goa, Kolkata and Chennai all making it the semi-final for the second consecutive time. Kolkata was led by Iain Hume’s 11 goals, who left the last season’s finalists for the defending champions. But Kerala suffered in the Canadian’s absence, finishing at the bottom of the table. In their absence, Delhi Dynamos made it to the semi-final.
Goa defeated Delhi 3-1 on aggregate after their 3-0 victory in the second leg helped them overturn the one-goal deficit. The defending champions Atletico de Kolkata failed to make it to the second consecutive final as Chennai won 4-2 on aggregate.
In yet another dramatic final, Chennaiyin FC defeated FC Goa 3-2 with the help of two late goals. The final looked all set for the extra time with score 1-1 until the 86th minute. But Jofre’s goal in the 87th minute gave Goa the lead for the first time in the game. The Gaurs were just a couple of minutes away from winning the championship in front of their home support
But it just wasn’t meant to be! Goa conceded an own goal via goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani in the 90th minute. The scores were now level. And the man who played a crucial role in taking Chennai to the final, Steven Mendoza dribbled past three players in the injury time to score the winning goal.
ISL Titles: Kolkata 1, Chennai 1!
Atlético de Kolkata (2016)
It was more or less the same story in the third season of the Indian Super League with same teams dominating the league stage. Mumbai City finished the league stage at the top of the table and was the only new face in the semi-finals. And why wouldn’t they be? The Islanders had the legendary Uruguayan Diego Forlan in their team who scored five goals in the season.
Kerala Blasters returned to the semi-final stage after finishing with a wooden spoon in the previous season. Delhi Dynamos once again qualified for the semi-finals, courtesy Brazil’s Marcelinho, who scored the league-best 10 goals.
Kolkata became the only team to qualify for the playoffs for the third consecutive time. Iain Hume, now a familiar face in the ISL, led the team’s attack with seven goals. Hume’s brace in the first leg of the semi-final against Mumbai City took his team to the final. Kerala Blasters won on penalties against Delhi to set up the rematch of 2014 final.
And once again, Kolkata was too good for the Blasters. After finishing 1-1 at the end of the extra-time, the record 54,000 plus crowd of Kochi was treated to the first-ever penalty shoot-out in the ISL final. But the home team failed to win the title for the second time in a row as Kolkata won 4-3 in the shoot-out.
ISL Titles, advantage ATK! 2-1 against Chennai!
Chennaiyin FC (2017-18)
The fourth season saw ISL expanding with the addition of two new teams, Jamshedpur FC and Bengaluru FC. The total number of matches also increased from 61 to 95. Two more teams also meant more tussle for the top four finish.
The newcomers Bengaluru were led by Venezuelan Miku’s 15 and Sunil Chhetri’s 14 goals as they finished the league stage at the top of the table. Chennai and Goa also made it to the semi-final for the third time in four years. FC Pune City finished fourth to make it to the playoffs for the very first time.
After a goalless first leg of the semi-final against Pune, Sunil Chhetri’s hat-trick in the second leg was enough to seal Bengaluru’s place in the final. Chennai defeated Goa 4-1 on aggregate with a brace from Lalpekhlua in the second leg.
Chennai vs Bengaluru, the Southern Derby was set to decide the winner of ISL four in Bangalore. But the curse of the home ground in the final returned for the third consecutive time. Despite Chhetri’s opener in the 9th minute, Brazilian Maílson Alves’s brace gave Chennai the lead in the first half. Another Brazilian Raphael Augusto made it 3-1 in the 67th minute. Miku’s injury-time goal was a mere consolation goal as Chennai won their second title with a 3-2 victory.
So, as things stand, Kolkata and Chennai are tied on 2-2 in terms of most ISL titles.
Bengaluru FC (2018-19)
Despite a brilliant season, a defeat in the final was difficult to digest for both Sunil Chhetri and Bengaluru FC. And the Blues were eager to get their hands on their trophy.
It was visible from Bengaluru’s performance in the group stages as they once again finished at the top of the table. The Blues were followed by FC Goa, Mumbai City and NorthEast United, making it to the playoffs for the first time.
Goa’s Spaniard forward Coro was in sublime form throughout the season with league-best 16 goals. Former PSG forward Bartholomew Ogbeche scored 12 goals for NEU and Senegal’s Modou Sougou matched the tally with Mumbai.
But Chhetri’s Bengaluru FC was too good for them in the final stages. Despite losing 2-1 in the first leg of the semi-final against NEU, the Blues won 3-0 in the second leg and booked their place in the second consecutive final. Goa’s 5-1 thrashing of Mumbai in the first leg was enough to take them to their second ISL final as well.
But as was the case a few years ago in 2015 final, late goal came back to haunt FC Goa once again. Bengaluru’s Rahul Bheke scored a 117th-minute winner to seal the 1-0 victory for the Blues making them only the third team to lift the ISL trophy.