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.
The Indian Super League 2016 is almost at its halfway stage, and goals have been a concern this season. Week three of ISL-3 was particularly dry; its six games yielding just nine goals.
Result-wise, four of the five wins in week three were recorded by an away side, which goes some way towards explaining the lack of goals. Teams have proved frustrating visitors as sitting on a one-goal lead and soaking pressure seems to be the go-to idea.
However, those games have seen teams play with great defensive resilience, which is reflected in this week’s top five Indian players list that heavily features defensive players.
Albino Gomes // 22 // Mumbai City FC // Goalkeeper
The 22-year-old Goan made his first start in ISL-3, and he made his rare appearance count. Albino put in a display of calm amid the hostile confines of Atletico Kolkata’s homeground, and ensured his side went home with a clean sheet.
Albino’s three saves on the night allowed Diego Forlan’s goal at the opposite end to be the game-winner. His fine performance has now planted seeds of doubt on manager Alexandre Guimaraes’ mind about whom to pick in goal for Mumbai City’s next game.
Prabir Das // 22 // Atletico De Kolkata // Full Back
Atletico are blessed with two fine, young full-backs in Pritam Kotal and Prabir Das. Prabir has played every minute this season, and he has been solid on Kolkata’s left-hand side.
Prabir’s robustness in defence complements his propensity to join his team’s attack from wide areas. His play-breaking numbers are the highest this season among Atletico’s defenders, and he passes more frequently than any other Indian player in his team, showing his knack for getting involved in build-up play.
Sandesh Jhingan // 23 // Kerala Blasters // Full Back
Northeast United FC’s forward Nicolas Velez (L) tries to control the ball as Kerala Blasters FC’s defender Sandesh Jhingan challenges during the Indian Super League (ISL) football match between Northeast United FC and Kerala Blasters FC at The Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on October 1, 2016.
/ AFP / Biju BORO
One of the main reasons for Kerala Blasters’ recent revival has been their imposing back line. Jhingan has played an able foil to Cedric Hengbart and Aaron Hughes in Kerala’s defence, despite being pushed wide to a full-back role this season.
Kerala are unbeaten in four games now, and Jhingan has proved a solid presence for the Yellows on either side of their defence. From bombing up the flank to support attacks to switching flanks to help shore things up, the India international has been in inspired form.
Mohammed Rafi // 34 // Kerala Blasters // Striker
34-year-old Rafi was one of the two Indian goalscorers from week three. The local boy’s tenacity off the ball and ability to pick the right spaces to attack have been instrumental to Kerala’s fortunes of late.
Rafi’s floating role through the centre has allowed Michael Chopra to flourish, and has also allowed the likes of Kervens Belfort and Duckens Nazon to cut infield to attack with ease.
Jeje // 25 // Chennaiyin FC // Striker
Chennaiyin FC forward Jeje Lelpekhlua (L) celebrates after scoring a goal during the Indian Super League (ISL) football match between Chennaiyin FC and Atletico-de-Kolkata in Chennai on October 3, 2015. AFP PHOTO/Manjunath KIRAN (Photo credit should read MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Jeje has been used in a limited capacity this season by Chennaiyin FC, but the 25-year-old has been highly productive during his time on the pitch. His goal against Pune City was of the highest quality, and he has also chipped in with two assists in his three games thus far.
Chennaiyin will need Jeje to peak at the right time this season, and their solid start to the season despite the attacker not playing too often stands them in good stead for the second round of games. With two games in quick succession coming up, Jeje is expected to be pivotal to his team’s fortunes.
Read about the top performers from week 1 and 2 as well.
Abhijit Bharali is a freelance football writer who specializes in analytical writing. A first generation Liverpool fan, and an engineering undergrad. You can find some of his other work here: https://thenutcrackfootball.wordpress.com/
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