Some domestic players rose through to help their sides succeed, while certain foreign players were as influential as ever.
The ISL league phase has finally come to an end, after months of thrilling football allowed four to rise over the others. Bengaluru FC and FC Goa led the charts with another dominant league campaign, while Mumbai City FC returned to the playoffs with a gritty campaign under Jorge Costa. However, it was Eelco Schattorie’s NorthEast United who off pulled the ultimate underdog story to script their first-ever qualification for the playoffs.
Apart from these, there were thrills and spills all along as the ISL continued to give a platform to some brilliant players. Some domestic ones rose through to help their sides succeed, while certain foreign players were as influential as ever to light up their side’s game. So, here is Khel Now’s ISL Team of the League Phase:
Borges and Lenny Rodrigues will form the core of the team’s midfield
Goalkeeper: Francisco Dorronsoro (Delhi Dynamos)
Delhi Dynamos might’ve had a very topsy-turvy season, but things could’ve got worse if they didn’t have Francisco Dorronsoro guarding their posts. The Spanish keeper successfully kept out Albino Gomes from the lineup and gave a bright impression for himself throughout the season. Despite having a very frail defence, Dorronsoro saved the Lions from humiliation on multiple occasions, while keeping three clean-sheets from 15 appearances.
He also made 44 saves in those games (more than Golden Glove holder Pawan Kumar), averaging almost three saves per match. The Spaniard also had a save percentage of 69.84%, with some stunning saves to motivate those ahead of him throughout Delhi’s campaign.
Right-Back: Rahul Bheke (Bengaluru FC)
The 28-year-old Mumbaikar emerged as a revelation in the Bengaluru defence this season
Lauded as “Bhekenbauer” by the West Block Blues for his sturdy defensive work for Bengaluru FC, Rahul Bheke has emerged as a revelation in their defence this season. He’s successfully slotted into both right-back and center-back whenever needed, neutralizing the threat of some dangerous attacking opposition. Bheke has played a big part in securing the five clean-sheets for Gurpreet Singh Sandhu this season, with his solid work at the back inspiring those around him.
He’s made 81 clearances, 40 tackles, 19 interceptions and 28 blocks in 17 appearances for the Blues so far. The fact that he’s only made 14 fouls in the campaign proves how disciplined he has been. He’s also scored two goals and assisted one to help his side win crucial points.
Center-Back: Lucian Goian (Mumbai City FC)
The Mumbai City captain has led from the front, becoming the defensive general Costa needed to help the Islanders progress into the playoffs. Lucian Goian has been an impenetrable force at the back and despite watching his partner in crime be replaced multiple times, he’s retained his rock-solid composure. Goian has made a mammoth 175 clearances in 17 appearances, averaging 10 clearances per game.
On top of that, he’s also made 70 tackles along with 30 blocks and interceptions to halt opposition in their track. The hard-hitting defender has helped make the Mumbai Football Arena a fortress while keeping six clean-sheets in 17 games so far and maintaining one of the best defensive records in the league.
Center-Back: Tiri (Jamshedpur FC)
A renowned face in the ISL, Tiri continued his commendable work with Jamshedpur FC, to reassert himself as one of the defensives pillars of the competition. The Spaniard produced some solid performances for the Men of Steel throughout the league. Tiri played in every single match for Jamshedpur, making 164 clearances, 42 tackles and 33 interceptions in the 18 games.
He helped to keep five clean-sheets for Cesar Ferrando’s men and bailed them out of trouble on numerous occasions with his intelligence. While he was unlucky not to make the playoffs, his rock-solid defensive showing means Jamshedpur are unlikely to let him go anytime soon.
Left-Back: Subhashish Bose (Mumbai City FC)
Arguably the most consistent Indian defender in the ISL, Subhasish Bose’s proven to be an absolute steal for Mumbai. While he’s been forced to curb down his attacking flair due to Costa’s system, Subhasish has been a revelation by showcasing his defensive side. He’s helped the Islanders keep many clean-sheets and shut out dangerous attacking units with relative ease.
The former Bengaluru FC defender’s barely been ousted by anyone on his side, while he’s also operated through the middle or on the left equally well. He’s made 54 tackles, 115 clearances and 30 blocks so far in 15 appearances.
Central Midfield: Lenny Rodrigues (FC Goa)
Rodrigues has averaged more than 58 passes per match with a passing accuracy of 86.84%
Lenny Rodrigues might not have been part of the fireworks produced by Goa this season, but he has been crucial towards lighting up those fireworks. The Gaurs midfielder has played a key role in Sergio Lobera’s midfield, controlling the tempo of the game and distributing possession to the attackers. Rodrigues has been averaging more than 58 passes per match with a passing accuracy of 86.84%.
Not only that, he’s made more than 1000 passes in 18 appearances for the Gaurs, while also fulfilling his defensive duties well. The midfielder has made 65 tackles and 30 interceptions in the league phase, often regaining possession for his team.
Central Midfield: Rowllin Borges (NorthEast United)
The NorthEast United midfield general has taken to Eelco Schattorie’s system like a fish to water, instantly adapting his possession-based style and is benefitting from it. Borges has been a key cog in the Highlanders’ success this season, dictating games with ease from the heart of their midfield. In 18 matches, he’s made 968 passes with a passing accuracy of 82.85% and an average of more than 50 passes per game.
Apart from that, he’s also successfully made 50 tackles and 27 interceptions to act as a ball-winner for his team. Borges has also been prolific going forward, scoring four goals, including a couple of crucial winners.
Right Attacking Midfield: Sunil Chhetri (Bengaluru FC)
After tasting the despair of defeat in the ISL final last season, Sunil Chhetri has returned in full flow this time around, rolling back the years with his fantastic work for Bengaluru. He’s led the side from the front with his incredible work-ethic, which gas been on show in his hard-working performances for the Blues. Chhetri has kept up his commendable goalscoring form in the ISL, scoring eight goals in 16 appearances so far this season.
He might be 34 years of age, yet his resolute determination has born fruit for Bengaluru multiple times. Chhetri’s goals and assists have driven his team forward, helping them top the ISL league phase for the second season running.
Left Attacking Midfield: Ashique Kuruniyan (FC Pune City)
The breakout star of the Indian Super League season, Ashique Kuruniyan was the brightest spark in FC Pune City’s topsy-turvy season. The 21-year-old unveiled his bag of tricks for the Stallions, coming up with one sizzling performance after another. While he might’ve only scored two goals and assisted three, Ashique’s solid work down the flanks caught the eye of many.
Be it his pace, dribbling ability or crossing ability prowess, he was always moving around on the left flank trying to get something done for the team.
Forward: Bartholomew Ogbeche (NorthEast United)
The former PSG man has scored 12 goals in 17 appearances so far
Bartholomew Ogbeche has filled the goalscoring void which had plagued NorthEast United for the past couple of seasons, as he’s the quality striker they had lacked in past campaigns. Coming into the ISL with a wealth of experience under his belt, the striker made an instant impact by scoring some great goals in the first few matches, including the famous hat-trick against Chennaiyin FC.
Ogebeche’s scored 12 goals in 17 appearances for the Highlanders so far and rallied them forward to finally attaining a place in the playoffs. Raring to add more to his tally, he’ll be key to NorthEast’s success going forward and will aim to continue this inspired goalscoring form in the big games.
Forward: Ferran Corominas (FC Goa)
The Indian Super League has had to bow down to the greatness of Ferran Corominas once again this season. The Spaniard has continued his rampage for Goa, willing them forward whenever possible and allowing the Gaurs to play some of the best attacking football in the league.
He’s yet again topped the goalscoring charts after the league phase, having scored 15 goals in 17 appearances and also breaking the all-time ISL record as well. On top of that, Corominas has also topped the assists charts with seven.