India’s top two leagues rang in the New Year in style with some scintillating action across the board.
As the New Year kicked in, the first round of league football in the country unearthed some exceptional footballing experiences for the fans. Both the Indian Super League (ISL) and I-League provided the spectators with some amazing goals as well as defensive displays with no disappointments included in the quality of the game.
The ISL saw league newcomers Bengaluru FC maintaining supremacy at the top half of the table whereas the I-League provided saw youngsters stepping into the limelight. Let’s have a look at which Indians managed to get into the Team of the Week.
Rehenesh save Vs Goa
Nothing short of a brick wall in front of the NorthEast United bars. The former East Bengal goalkeeper was criticized for his deteriorating performances since late last year. However, he made a magical comeback against hotshots FC Goa in the last gameweek.
The 24-year-old goalkeeper faced two of the ISL’s finest attackers, Ferran Corominas and Manuel Arana but he stood his ground firmly and put in a heroic performance. In the 96 minutes Rehenesh was on the pitch, he faced six shots out of which he saved five which helped him win the Moment of the Match award. Effective on aerial balls as well, the NorthEast custodian made four clearances and four caches, helping his side to snatch all three points in the process.
It was another brilliant performance by the young Mumbai City wide player. A workhorse on the pitch, Ruidas’made 37 touches against Jamshedpur FC. The wide man poured in two crosses, however, could not get into the assists chart. His impressive defensive work included making three important clearances and two tackles, which helped the Mumbaikars immensely to maintain the defensive solidity.
Indian Football – Team of the week
Tarif Akhand – Chennai City
Another young prodigy of Chennai City. Akhand put in a brilliant display against Shillong Lajong in the last round of the I-League. The 19-year-old defender stood as a brick wall against the likes of Alan Deory and Nongbri throughout the match and made some important interceptions.
The standout performer in the Chennai defence against the Reds, Akhand was also a handful against aerial threats and in one-on-one situations where he excelled against physically superior players such as Abdoulaye Koffi which helped his side maintain a clean sheet at the end.
The best defender on the pitch on his day. The East Bengal veteran defender did not rise to fame since the beginning of the I-League season this year but made quite an impression against the Indian Arrows last week. A defensive general at the heart of the East Bengal back four, Mondal stood his ground against the attacking waves of Abhijit Sarkar, Aniket Jhadav and Lalrindika who failed to get past him. He also proved to be a handful for the Red and Gold during aerial threats, which he nullified rather quickly.
Pune’s right-back has been making all the right noises since the season started. Golui featured for the travelling FC Pune City against Kerala Blasters The match saw the 20-year-old defender rise to the occasion as he registered three tackles, five clearances as well as five blocks, which kept Courage Pekuson at bay during the entire game. He also linked up with Ashique Kuruniyan and later Jewel Raja well, creating chances on the go as the game developed.
The wide midfielder was instrumental in NEROCA FC’s win against the Indian Arrows last week. Singh’s brace at the end of the first half ensured the league newcomers full points against the youngsters, who managed to get a goal back at the end. The 27-year-old Manipuri forward displayed some fine dribbling skill as he went past the Arrows’ defenders many times in the game.
The unsung hero of FC Goa in the most recent edition of the ISL. The Bengali midfielder was tasked with covering the back four against NorthEast United. Although, Halder was substituted just after the hour mark, his brilliant display against the Highlanders helped him to get a place in the Indian Team of the Week.
Halder registered a 72% pass completion rate against NorthEast United where he helped his side rotate the play whenever he had possession. His replacement, Edu Bedia could not have the same impact on the field which led to the Goa side having problems distributing the ball in the later part of the second half.
Michael Soosairaj – Chennai City
The second player from Chennai City to be featured on the Team of the Week. Soosairaj was instrumental in Chennai’s hold-up play against Lajong, where he helped his side by distributing the ball as well as by regaining possession. The 23-year-old midfielder was also a handful in the defensive duties as he tracked back several times, making important tackles and interceptions on the go. He was instrumental in the hole.
The former NorthEast United forward was one of the standout performers, yet unsung heroes for Jamshedpur against Mumbai City. One of the most creative players on the pitch, Jerry managed to assist Izu Azuka for his second goal in the dying moments of the first half.
He also created three chances and displayed a sound performance on set-pieces as well. However, the forward was substituted in the 78th minute, after which Jamshedpur lost a certain portion of their creative touch in the final third.
Jeje Lalpekhlua Hero of the Match Vs Delhi Dynamos
One of the most sought-after strikers in the country at the moment. The Chennaiyin FC striker scored a brace against Delhi Dynamos in the last gameweek and was awarded the Hero of the Match in the process. The former Mohun Bagan striker had a 75% pass completion rate against the capital side, which along with his sound defensive display made him arguably the best performing Indian striker in the last round of the ISL.
Chhetri goal Vs ATK
One of the few consistent performers this season. The Bengaluru FC skipper scored the only goal of the match, earning his side three points in the process. A natural leader as well as a tricky attacker, Chhetri managed to go through the zonal-marking several times, making some brilliant runs through the ATK defence.
His presence upfront made the other Bengaluru attackers run freely, which helped the Blues to maintain attacking supremacy throughout the game.