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The Indian Super League had an encouraging start in its inaugural season. While this site would like to see more young Indian talents given a chance in the starting line-up, the presence of any Indian footballers taking the field alongside experienced professionals is encouraging. In this weekly mini-series, we take a look at the best Indian performers.
With the group phase of the 2015 Indian Super League ending last Sunday, the line up for the semi-finals has been drawn. Delhi Dynamos will lock horns against group stage table toppers Goa while last season’s champions Atletico de Kolkata will square off against Chennaiyin, who were the last team to guarantee their qualification.
Week nine saw plenty more goals, and some high scoring games. 25 goals were scored in the final week of the group stages, as Chennaiyin sealed their semis spot with two clinical wins over Mumbai City and Pune City. Delhi and Goa had a dress rehearsal for their two-legged semis in the last group stage game, with Goa running out 3–2 winners.
NorthEast United were left to rue their home record as they failed to make it into the semis, while Mumbai City, Pune City and Kerala Blasters propped up the standings. Here are the top five Indians from the final week of group stage action in the 2015 ISL.
Romeo Fernandes // 23 // FC Goa // Winger: The 23-year-old scored a brace in Goa’s 3–2 away win over Delhi to lead his side’s second half comeback from two goals down. Romeo started from the bench, and was introduced in the second half for what was his 11th appearance of the season. The Goan quickly changed the course of the game with his two-minute brace, as Goa went on to clinch the win with a last-gasp winner.
Jeje // 24 // Chennaiyin // Striker: One of the in-form Indian players heading into the semi-finals, Jeje continued his fine goalscoring streak as he notched two goals in two games to help Chennaiyin make it through to the knockout phases. The 24-year-old took his tally to five goals in the season in the process; his winner against Pune City was of special significance as it eased out Chennaiyin’s fears in a tight game and set them on the road to the semis.
Sehnaj Singh // 22 // Delhi Dynamos // Midfield : The 22-year-old scored the goal of the season in Delhi’s 3–3 draw with Kerala Blasters as the Dynamos completed their comeback from 3–1 down in the last minute. Sehnaj’s 30-yard strike swerved in the air and dipped as it hit the target to leave Kerala goalkeeper Sandip Nandy little chance. The midfielder only made his eighth appearance of the season in that game, but showed enough to prove his importance to the Delhi side.
Dhanachandra Singh// 28 // Chennaiyin //Centre Back: The left-back had a fruitful last few weeks of the group stages as he featured as part of Chennaiyin’s solid back line that has conceded the lowest goals this season. The 25-year-old Dhana was impressive in his team’s two clean sheets against Mumbai City and Pune City as he averted the threats posed by the likes of Adrian Mutu and Sunil Chhetri, and also motored forward when possible.
Sunil Chhetri // 31 // Mumbai City // Striker: Chhetri scored his seventh goal of the campaign as Mumbai City registered their first ever away win in their final group game against Atletico de Kolkata. Chhetri’s 82nd minute penalty prompted some late drama in a game which Mumbai City eventually won 3–2. Chhetri was in his all-action self, combining intelligent movements with quick thinking, but was wasteful in his finishing.
Indian XI of the Group Stages:
Based on the players who featured most number of times in the weekly lists, here is an attack-heavy 3–4–3 Indian line-up.
Starting XI: TP Rehenesh; Dhanachandra Singh, Anas Edathodika, Rahul Bheke; Seityasen Singh, Arata Izumi, Mohammed Rafi, Sanju Pradhan; Sunil Chhetri, Jeje, Mandar Rao Dessai.
Written by Abhijit Bharali