The league stages of the third and latest installment of the Hero Indian Super League has been done and dusted and we were treated to plenty of thrills and spills. The fans saw plenty of brilliant individual performances and plenty of comebacks as teams dug deep in their reservoir of spirit to draw inspiration and get back into the game. We at The Hard Tackle look back into four of the best moments of the group stages of the Indian Super League.

Dogged and Determined – Atletico De Kolkata book their semi final berth for three seasons in a row

Three semi finals, two different coaches, thousands of passionate fans and one determined team; Atletico De Kolkata proved their critics wrong as they qualified for the semis once again in a season some would consider their performances were way below what they are capable of. The Kolkata outfit underwent changes in their coaching set up as the ventured into the new season as Antonio Lopes Habas was replaced by Jose Molina. While the Tigers weren’t much active in the transfer market, they managed to retain their players, which proved to be a key behind the cohesion in the squad. It took quite some time for the Kolkata outfit to get into their grooves under new management.

Molina’s tactics revolved around pace down the flanks and a midfield stronghold, keys behind any counter attacking side. But ATK failed to live up to his billing with the side being an ageing one. The team lacked the desired pace or the striking options up front. Marquee man Helder Postiga was only a shadow of the player he once was and Spaniard Juan Beloncoso was poor when given the opportunity. The midfield lacked the stronghold with inconsistent performances from Captain Borja while the defense too looked a shaky at times. But Atletico managed to pull through with sheer doggedness. Players like their talisman Iain Hume and Sameegh Doutie stepped up when their side needed them upfront while eye catching performances from their Indian players like keeper Debjit Majumder kept them going. So even after a whopping 8 draws and 4 wins under their belt, the Kolkata outfit qualified with the least number of defeats in the league with just two. Average displays yet results on board to get them going, a key mark of champion sides indeed.

The Diego Forlan Show

Match number 43 or as we call it The Diego Forlan Show was a reminder and a warning to all the other teams as to why the former Golden Ball winner at the FIFA World Cup is still a wizard with the ball and is quite a force to reckon with. It was quite a night as Mumbai City thumped five goals past a hapless Kerala Blasters side and the Uruguayan was right in the thick of all the action. It took just five minutes for the former Manchester United to make his first impact in the game, as he opened the scoresheet. Forlan was delivered a brilliant through ball by teammate Matias Defedrico and the striker made no mistake as he slotted the ball home with a calm first time finish. It didn’t take Forlan much time to strike back again. 10 minutes later, as Mumbai City earned a free kick just outside the box, Forlan rolled back the years with a brilliant goal from the freekick, past a flailing Graham Stack who could do nothing but admire his effort. The Uruguayan completed his hattrick 20 minutes into the second half with a composed finish. Cafu won the ball after a deflected shot inside the penalty box and passed it to Forlan, who made no mistake, slotting the ball between the keeper’s legs into the back of the net. 37 and still going strong, Diego Forlan will be waiting to have his say in the semi finals.

FC Goa and Chennaiyin FC Play Out A 9 Goal Thriller At Fatorda

It was a thriller in the Fatorda Stadium as bottom club FC Goa had the poorest record of the season with a staggering 8 defeats and a goal difference of -10 on board. But, that didn’t stop them from piling up more misery on the bowing out Champs Chennaiyin FC. Chennai were already out of contention for a berth in the playoff but were aiming to go out with a bang, but the Gaurs didn’t think twice before ruining their farewell. Chennai grabbed the lead through Jerry as early as the 4th minute but were brought back to square one as Raphael Coelho equalised for Goa two minutes later. The Machans were leading again in the 14th minute with Gregory Arnolin scoring an own goal, but it didn’t take long for Goa to come back again as Joffre equalised a few minutes later from the spot. Dudu put Chennayin ahead again in the 28th minute.

The Super Machans squandered their opputunities to get a two goal lead in the first half as the kept missing chances and were rightly punished in the second half as Goa came back to haunt them again with a goal by Sahil Tavora in the 68th minute making the scoreline 2 goals apiece. Goa led for the first time in the 76th minute as it was the Brazilian Raphael Coelho who had scored again. It took plenty of effort and Chennai got a penalty in the 88th minute. John Arne Riise made no from the spot and equalised. But heartbreak for Abhishek Bachhan’s side it seemed was destined as Goa clinched it in the 94th minute. Indian midfielder Sahil Tavora struck again as he cut in from the left hand side and scored with an unstoppable shot beyond the keeper. A nine goal thriller between the bottom two sides in their final game;Goa never fails to amaze you does it!

A Marcelinho Masterclass

Outclassed, outwitted and Outperformed; It was a masterclass from the Delhi Dynamos and their star man Marcelinho as they thumped five past a helpless FC Goa with the Brazilian giving a master class in attacking football. It wouldn’t be wrong to say The Lions change in fortunes on their way to the semis after their initial slump is credited mostly to the attacking displays by Marcelinho Perreira. The Brazilian has been performing excellently throughout the seasons and showed audiences what he is capable of during his side’s battle with Goa as he scored a hattrick and set up another goal for his strike partner Richard Gadze.

The Gaurs from Goa opened the scoreline getting a 31st minute as Fulganco Cardozo scored from a tap in after Delhi keeper Poirei had saved the initial shot. But after that it was all Delhi and Marcelinho. Delhi won a freekick in the 31st minute and it was from a beautiful delivery from the resulting kick by Florent Malouda that put marcelinho clear of the defence and straight through on goal. Marcelinho made no mistake and leveled it up for Delhi. But it was in the second half when the Brazilian showed his class. Three minutes after the restart Marcelinho controlled a loose ball and cannoned his shot from distance. The goalkeeper looked on helplessly as the ball kissed the post made its home into the back of the net. Marcelinho continued his rampage as he wrecked havoc in the Goan defence on his way to set up the goal for Richard Gadze. The Brazilian registered his third and Delhi’s fourth in the 56th minute as he controlled a long ball with absolute precision, turned the defender inside out and placed it beyond the keeper’s reach. An absolute Samba masterclass from the man himself, keeping us wondering what he has in store for the semis!