The Indian Super League had an encouraging start in its first 2 seasons. 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.
If week six of ISL 2016 is any pointer for the rest of the season, fans of the league could be in for a treat. 20 goals in six matches in week six is by far the best weekly goal return of the season. As the race for the playoffs hots up, teams have done away with trying to shut shop and play defensively. Instead, attack has seemed to take precedence which has been reflected in week six’s high-scoring matches.
Delhi Dynamos’ free-flowing football has taken them to the summit, from where their playoffs spot is all but secured. Meanwhile, NorthEast United’s free fall doesn’t seem like stopping any time soon. The Highlanders fell to their fourth straight loss in week six.
As with the general scheme of things, the Indian players have also broken the shackles to produce match-defining performances in the last few games. Bengaluru FC’s stars CK Vineeth and Eugeneson Lyngdoh have stood out among the local lads in week six, as we run down the top five Indian players from the week gone by.
- CK Vineeth (Kerala Blasters): Fresh from creating history with Bengaluru, Vineeth has taken no time to make an impact in ISL-3. Coming on late against nine-man Goa with the score tied at 1-1, Vineeth pounced with his first touch in the box in the 99th minute to hand Kerala a much-needed win.
As if his exploits against Goa weren’t enough, the Kannur-born striker went on to score two more goals in Kerala’s next game. Finding his team in a similar situation of trailing by a goal against Chennaiyin, Vineeth’s brace changed the course of the match. His two goals handed Kerala a 3-1 win, and propelled them to second place in the table.
- Eugeneson Lyngdoh (Pune City): Like Vineeth for Kerala, Eugene’s first impression in ISL-3 was to score the winner for his team. Pune City had flattered to deceive this season, with their bluntness in front of goal being a particular concern. Eugene, though, went about correcting that by netting the Stallions’ winner against Mumbai City. His goal took his team into the top four for the first time this season.
Having struggled with the lumbering Dramane Traore up front in a Mumbai-dominated first half, Pune City recieved a significant boost in the second half with Eugene’s energy and invention on the ball. Pune City’s defence has tightened up in recent matches. Add to that Eugene’s spark, and the Stallions are well set for a playoffs push.
- Milan Singh (Delhi Dynamos): Chennaiyin’s Thoi Singh was the best midfield enforcer in ISL-2, and while he hasn’t made much impact this season, another Manipuri has set about replicating Thoi’s performance from 2015. Milan Singh is a box-to-box midfielder like Thoi, and he has held everything together for the table-topping Delhi side this term.
Milan’s goal against Atletico Kolkata showed his cultured side of the game that often gets overlooked in the light of his tireless workrate. That goal was his second this season, and turned the complexion of the game as Delhi channelled their determination to hold on to a 2-2 draw with ten men. The playoffs beckon for Delhi, and wrapping Milan in cotton wool to keep him fresh for the season’s latter stages should be a priority for Gianluca Zambrotta’s Lions.
- Laxmikant Kattimani (Goa): NorthEast United haven’t been the most demanding opponents this season, but any team that field nine Indian players and get one of them sent off can have difficulties keeping out their opponents. Kattimani repaid Zico’s trust to name him Goa’s captain in the absence of the regulars, as he led from the front in a stunning win over the hapless NorthEast.
The Goan goalkeeper pulled off save after fine save to deny the Highlanders. That proved to be the difference in the end when Romeo Fernandes scored the winner deep into stoppage time. Kattimani’s had a rollercoaster ISL-3, having seen his stock reach rock bottom in the reverse fixture against NorthEast when he gifted them a goal. The 27-year-old was dropped from the eleven, and only recently made a return to the side. It was perhaps apt that he saved his man of the match display for NorthEast, and has given Goa renewed hope in their pursuit of making the playoffs after stopping their rot.
- Kean Lewis (Delhi Dynamos): Lewis has been a regular in this weekly list of top Indian players, and once again showed why he is regarded as one of the best finds of ISL-3 with his performance against Chennaiyin in week six. As Florent Malouda turned on the style to wreck havoc in Chennaiyin’s defence, Lewis put in his usual hard-running shift, and also scored a goal, his third of the season.
With Richard Gadze getting injured in the same game and Badara Badji getting suspended after his red card against Kolkata, the onus will be on Lewis to plug the gaps in his team’s attack in the remaining games. Lewis has been a breath of fresh air this season, and that has translated into his team being the most entertaining of ISL-3 so far.
Read about the top performers from the previous weeks
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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