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ISL Team of the Season: Indians rise to the fore in landmark campaign

Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar

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The likes of Michael Soosairaj and Bartholomew Ogbeche added swagger to the competition.

After months of high-octane action, the Indian Super League (ISL) season finally ended with Bengaluru FC on top of the podium. The Bengaluru outfit found the second time to be the charm, becoming the first ISL club to win the title after topping the league stages. While the winners deserve plaudits of their own, the other clubs also produced some amazingfootball throughout the campaign.

Many new talents emerged and known ones picked up gears, resulting in some fantastic individual performances throughout the season. While ISL 5 shed the spotlight on many booming Indian talents, some foreigners added that extra quality to the league. As we say goodbye to it, here is Khel Now’s  Team of the Season for ISL 5.

Ferran Corominas and Bartholomew Ogbeche will lead the frontline

Goalkeeper: Pawan Kumar (NorthEast United)

The former Mumbai City custodian kept six clean-sheets throughout the season

He might’ve received his opportunity by chance when T.P. Rehenesh got suspended, but Pawan Kumar definitely grabbed it with both hands. The former Mumbai City FC goalkeeper was a reliable figure in goal for NorthEast United, helping them scrape through victories by holding down the fort. He kept six clean-sheets with the Highlanders, averaging more than two saves per game.

Kumar produced some inspired performances against intimidating opposition, making crucial saves to rally his side forward. While unlucky to end his campaign with a 3-0 drubbing, Pawan’s safe hands were a big reason for his team progressing to their first-ever playoffs this season.

Right-Back: Rahul Bheke (Bengaluru FC)

The versatile defender was an absolute rock at the back for BFC and scored the title-deciding goal against Goa

In a season when the spotlight shone brightly on many domestic talents, Rahul Bheke was inspired to keep on improving himself after receiving the attention. “Bhekenbauer” as he was named by many, the versatile defender was an absolute rock at the back for Bengaluru, helping them keep nine clean-sheets en route to winning the whole thing.

Be it playing at right-back or centre-back, Bheke was up to the task every single time. He made 43 tackles, 96 clearances and 26 interceptions in his 20 appearances, clearing danger and keeping out the best attackers. However, his fairytale ending would come in his home town of Mumbai, when Bheke scored a brilliant header to win the Blues their maiden ISL title.

Center-Back: Lucian Goian (Mumbai City FC)

Goian averaged almost 10 clearances per game this season

Mumbai City’s captain led from the front with his commanding nature, helping become the defensive general under new coach Jorge Costa. The Islanders remained a rock-solid defensive unit mostly due to Goian’s heroics at the back, as he popped up every time danger lingered to clear it out.

Apart from helping his side keep seven clean-sheets throughout the season, Goian also made 187 clearances, averaging almost 10 a game, Along with that, he also made 82 tackles and 34 blocks to build a “you shall not pass” mentality.

Center-Back: Mourtada Fall (FC Goa)

Fall bullied some of the top strikers in the ISL and was also his side's star player during the playoffs

The Senegalese mountain was brought in to be the solution to FC Goa’s defensive woes and became their protector pretty easily. Fall was an impenetrable rock in the Gaurs' defence, turning up every time to avert danger and bullying some of the top strikers in the league. Not only did he play an important role in keeping eight clean-sheets for them, but he also acted as Goa’s last line of defence on multiple occasions.

He made 194 interceptions, 44 tackles and 23 interceptions in 20 appearances and rose highest during pressure situations. Fall was the Hero of the  Match in both playoffs games, also scoring a brace in the first leg. He continued his solid work with a heroic performance in the final, but couldn’t save his side from despair.

Left-Back: Subhasish Bose (Mumbai City FC)

The India international made 118 clearances and 56 tackles this season

The left-back was Mr. Consistent for Mumbai City, putting in one brilliant performance after another throughout the league phase. Subhasish proved to be a stellar signing for Mumbai, slotting into Costa’s system effortlessly and keeping things tight at the back. The former Bengaluru man neutralized the best of wingers in the league.

Apart from the six clean-sheets, he helped the Islanders keep, Bose was superb in his own work. He made 118 clearances, 56 tackles and 30 blocks in 16 appearances.

Central Defensive-Midfield: Rowllin Borges (NorthEast United)

Borges was one of the star performers for NorthEast United this season

Rowllin Borges was given the responsibility of holding down NorthEast United’s midfield, something he thrived at throughout the season. The midfielder produced some solid performances, neutralizing opponents and driving his side forward.

He averaged 52.05 passes per game with a passing accuracy of 82%, while having also made 53 tackles and 27 interceptions. Not only was he their midfield general controlling the tempo of the game, but Borges was also an asset in set-pieces and scored some crucial goals to help NorthEast progress to their first-ever playoffs.


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Right-Wing: Jackichand Singh (FC Goa)

The right-winger was a blazing figure in his side's attack with the likes of Ferran Corominas

Goa’s own speedster down the right, Jackichand had his most prolific season with the Gaurs after arriving from Kerala Blasters earlier on. He was a blazing figure in their attack, making himself available down the right and being a menace to defenders with his pace and incisiveness.

Singh produced some glittering performances, especially shining through in the playoffs and beyond. He scored four goals and assisted as many to help the Gaurs maintain the reputation of a beaming attacking side. Jacki linked up with Ferran Corominas and Co. superbly, creating some moments of magic and lighting up the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium with his electric nature.

Central Attacking-Midfield: Sunil Chhetri (Bengaluru FC)

Chhetri finished the season with nine goals and three assists

After last season’s despair, Bengaluru’s captain was hungry to get back into the fray and aim to finish the job this time around in the ISL. Chhetri was yet again his team’s leader in attack, with his persistence enabling the Blues to keep atop of the league.

He ended up as Bengaluru’s top scorer this season with nine goals, also the most for an Indian player in the ISL. Along with that, he also assisted three times and continued to be the beacon among Indian players in the league. Chhetri finally tasted sweet success when the Blues triumphed in the final, enabling him to join the select group of players to have won it all in Indian football.

Left-Wing: Michael Soosairaj (Jamshedpur FC)

The former Chennai City man added swagger to Cesar Ferrando's side

The breakout star of the season, Michael Soosairaj’s transition from playing in the I-League last season to successfully conquering the ISL was commendable. He shone through for Jamshedpur FC, adding swagger to their attack with his trickery. The winger lit fire on their left flank, often looking to dribble past opposition defenders and create goals for his side.

Despite falling injured towards the end, Soosairaj was otherwise pretty consistent and produced some glittering performances to enhance his reputation. He scored four goals and produced some moments of magic on the left, lending Cesar Ferrando’s side that cutting edge in attack.

Striker: Bartholomew Ogbeche (NorthEast United)

The former PSG man scored 12 goals this season

Despite not being as widely known as some of the other foreigners in the ISL, Bartholomew Ogebeche proved his superior pedigree by elevating NorthEast United to another level. The former PSG striker set their game ablaze with his fantastic work in the final third, scoring from almost anything he touched. Later elevated as The Highlanders' captain, Ogbeche led them to victory on multiple occasions and ended up having a stellar season.

He scored 12 goals and only finished second to Ferran Corominas in the Golden Boot race, while also assisting twice. Ogbeche brought back the fans' love for the team, with his deft finishing skills and became the battering ram for Eelco Schattorie’s side.

Striker: Ferran Corominas (FC Goa)

Corominas finished off the season as top scorer and Player of the Tournament

The king of goals sat on top of the charts once again. While Corominas was disappointed for the second year running after not being able to get the job done, his influence on Goa was uncontested. He ran the show in the final third, not only scoring goals, but also creating more than before with a refined sense of vision. He ended up as the Golden Boot winner with 16 goals in 20 appearances, while also having the second highest number of assists with seven.

The striker scored against almost opposition he faced, bamboozling defences with his movement and showcasing his killer finishing touch once again. He was also ISL’s Player of the Tournament.

Substitutes

Amrinder Singh (Mumbai City)

The India international played a crucial part for his side, as they reached the playoffs. The 25-year-old has been a revelation this season and kept seven clean-sheets in 19 games.

Souvik Chakrabarti (Mumbai City)

The defender was excellent for the Islanders this season and was rock-solid at the back for the Mumbaikars. Over the campaign, he made the highest number of interceptions for his team (36 in 18 games played).

Tiri (Jamshedpur FC)

The Men of Steel's captain was a majestic figure for his side this season. He led the team from the front inspiring them to some good results. In total, he made 42 tackles and 33 interceptions in 18 games.

Lenny Rodrigues (FC Goa)

Under Sergio Lobera, Lenny has evolved a lot. This season, he was a regular for his side, usually playing like a wall for his backline. He made 1242 passes, 33 interceptions and 75 tackles.

Udanta Singh (Bengaluru FC)

After a slow start, Udanta raised his game leading to a good run of displays from the youngster. This season, he finished as the side's third highest scorer with five goals and three assists.

Lallianzuala Chhangte (Delhi Dynamos)

The 21-year-old has slowly become Delhi's most crucial player over the season. At such a young age, he is his team's talisman. This campaign, he was his team's highest goalscorer with five goals and also registered an assist.

Published: Fri Mar 22, 2019 10:05 AM IST

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