We pick the best playing XI from matches played until November 23 (Tuesday).

The first gameweek of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 season brought with itself new rules, new players and new fireworks. 18 goals were scored in five games and a new record was created on the opening day clash between ATK Mohun Bagan and Kerala Blasters. Six goals were scored (as ATK took home three points winning 4-2), the highest on the opening day of the league since its inception.

With the new rule of four foreigners being allowed on the pitch at any time, fans witnessed an extra Indian player in action. This will further enhance Indian football in the long run. We take a look at the best performers from the first gameweek of ISL 2021-22 and select a playing XI:

Goalkeeper- Mohammad Nawaz (Mumbai City)

In a team full of superstars, a diminutive goalkeeper is holding his own. Mohammad Nawaz has continued the good work he did at FC Goa and was a composed presence in the Mumbai City goal against his former employers. Keeping a clean-sheet, the 21-year-old also had a healthy distribution rate and was always available for a pass to recycle possession.

Right Back- Reagan Singh (Chennaiyin FC)

He’s the sort of player who keeps his head down and continues to work hard. Against Hyderabad FC, Reagan was tireless and owned the right flank.

While he made seven clearances (highest in his team as they kept a clean-sheet), he also won every aerial and ground duel he participated in. The perfect defensive score for the former NorthEast United player!

Centre-Back- Peter Hartley (Jamshedpur FC)

Peter Hartley
Hartley scored a goal and commanded the backline for Jamshedpur FC (Courtesy: ISL Media)

This man hardly puts a foot wrong when he’s on a football pitch and for the Jamshedpur FC captain, the match against SC East Bengal was no different.

Positionally astute, he won seven out of the eight aerial duels he got into, while also trying a plethora of long balls. Hartley scored the equalizer late into the first half and was the best defender on the pitch in that game.

Centre-Back- Chinglensana Singh (Hyderabad FC)

Hyderabad FC’s first real move started with a long diagonal to Akash Mishra and it ended in a shot from Edu Garcia. Source of the diagonal? Chinglesana Singh. The Indian centre-back has been transformed under Manolo Marquez and his outing against Chennaiyin FC showed just that.

His positioning has always been strong and against the Marina Machans, he notched a passing accuracy of 90%! Not bad for a centre-back!

Left-Back- Hira Mondal (SC East Bengal)

After a jittery start to the game, Mondal grew into it and how. In a game that saw defence outmuscling attack, he played a key role alongside Franjo Prce to keep SC East Bengal in the match and earn a point.

The 25-year-old won nearly 75% of the aerial and ground duels he participated in, not bad for a debutant! With the coach’s trust in his abilities, he’s could well be one of the finds of the season.

Defensive Midfielder- Alex Lima (Jamshedpur FC)

We told you that Peter Hartley was the best defender on the pitch in the SC East Bengal Vs Jamshedpur FC encounter. The defender would’ve been the best player, if not for Lima.

A workhorse, the Brazilian can play both creator and destroyer for the Men of Steel. At the end of the game, Lima had four key passes, two interceptions and a brilliant outing to show for.

ISL 2021-22 TOTW
Khel Now’s ISL 2021-22 Team of Gameweek 1

Central Midfielder – Lalengmawia (Mumbai City FC)

Featuring alongside Ahmed Jahouh in the Mumbai City FC midfield, Apuia did what he does best – recycle possession and find spaces in tight areas.

He also doubled up on defensive duties as well, with five smooth tackles and three vital interceptions. The youngster will grow into the role in his new team. However, he has already shown why Mumbai splurged big money for him.

Right Winger- Udanta Singh (Bengaluru FC)

Is it too early to say he’s back? Bengaluru FC fans will disagree! What an outing it was for the “Flash.” He got two assists – one for Cleiton Silva and another for the own-goal by Mashoor Shereef, but what stood out was his confidence on the ball and his link-up play with Silva.

Udanta was roaring – and looked a completely different player under new head coach Marco Pezzaiuoli. The ‘good ol’ days are back!

Attacking Midfielder- Hugo Boumous (ATK Mohun Bagan)

Hugo Boumous
Boumous scored twice in ATKMB’s massive win over KBFC (courtesy: ISL Media)

After two seasons at FC Goa and another one at Mumbai City, Hugo Boumous is taking ATKMB fans in his stride. Two goals on opening day and several key passes make him the standout player from the first gameweek.

The Frenchman is gradually rising up the charts and is already one of the best-ever players in the Indian Super League. With Roy Krishna up ahead of him, there will be no shortage of goals and fireworks for the Mariners in ISL 2021-22!

Left Winger- Jayesh Rane (Bengaluru FC)

Jayesh is new at Bengaluru FC, but is showing signs of what he can do in their setup. A few misplaced passes and out-of-sync through balls later, the former ATK Mohun Bagan player showed his ability on the ball, with a clean passing accuracy of 67%.

Mind you, most of that was in the opposition half! He also scored the third goal for Bengaluru to give them the lead walking into the break. Given the chance, he can build on his abilities from his Chennaiyin and Aizawl days hereon.

Striker- Igor Angulo (Mumbai City)

Igor Angulo looked determined from the word go against his former club FC Goa. At the final whistle, he had scored twice for the Islanders, taking the game away from the opposition.

His finishing is second to none and his passing percentage of 87 makes him standout. He was inarguably the best player on the pitch and has set the marker for other strikers in the league.  

What do you make out of this XI from the first gameweek of ISL 2021-22? Who do you think we missed out? Let us know in the comments section.

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