KAUSAV BARUAH / AIPS* in GUWAHATI: The journey of the much fancied Indian Super League has just arrived at an all-important junction with the first legs of the semi-finals completed.
Only Kerala Blasters have reason to smile while Chennayin FC, Atlético De Kolkata and FC Goa have plenty of work ahead.
Having ended the first leg of their semi-final today on a goalless note, FC Goa need to take every advantage of home conditions against Atlético De Kolkata at Fatorda on Wednesday.
On the other hand Kerala Blasters, led by former England goalkeeper David James as the head coach and marquee player, have many reasons to be at ease after a 3-0 victory against Chennaiyin FC on Sunday.
Blasters demolished the league stage table-toppers with goals from Ishfaq Ahmed, Iain Hume and Sushanth Mathew. Ishfaq and Hume scored in the first half to give the home side a comfortable two goal cushion.
Chennaiyin made desperate attempts to find the goal but failed and a lack of resources in defence during the dying minutes led to another goal by substitute Sushanth.
It will take a remarkable performance from Chennaiyin FC if they have to come back from the defeat and clinch victory in the second leg.
In the other semi-finals first leg, a much more offensive FC Goa failed to find a goal against hosts Atlético De Kolkata. Goa have managed two draws against their Kolkata counterparts so far while they went down 2-1 to them at home.
Earlier in the league Goa, coached by former Brazil icon Zico, did not enjoy the best of starts. They did not win until their fifth match before going on to finish second with 22 points from 14 matches (six victories, four draws and four defeats).
The much-awaited ISL, which kicked off on October 12, has provided a roller-coaster ride for the teams. Some started in emphatic style only to struggle towards the end.
Chennaiyin FC were the first team to qualify by topping the table with 23 points from 14 games. They were perhaps the only side which maintained any consistency throughout the league stage.
A team led by former Italian World Cup winner Marco Materazzi as the head coach and player securing six victories and five draws.
Atlético De Kolkata partly owned by Atlético de Madrid were the third team progressing into the semi-finals by the virtue of a better goal difference.
Desperately needing at least a draw in their last match to make the cut, ATK trailed 0-1 at half-time after Edgar Marcelino’s 27th-minute goal in front of a 37,238 attendance at the Yuva Bharati Krirangan.
The side levelled through Fikru Teferra off a dubious penalty decision to force a 1-1 draw for Atletico against a 10-man FC Goa to keep their title dreams alive.
The side managed to pull out wins in four matches, seven draws and three defeats to finish with a total of 19 points.
The Sachin Tendulkar co-owned franchise Kerala Blasters ensured their place in the semi-finals with 19 points.
The side which struggled in mid-campaign put their act together towards the last few matches to keep their title hopes alive.
They rode on Canadian striker Iain Hume’s lone goal to clinch victory against FC Pune City to make it through to the semis. The side secured their semifinal berth by winning on five occasions and managing four draws while the side faced defeat in five matches.
** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide. More information: www.AIPSmedia.com
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