Five defenders who had the biggest impact in Hero ISL 2019-20
Like every Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) season, the 2019-20 campaign, once again, demonstrated the importance of having a stable defence as the foundation for the teams involved. Champions ATK FC, runners-up Chennaiyin FC, along with semi-finalists, Bengaluru FC and FC Goa all had a solid backline, which formed the cornerstone of their march till the latter stages of the competition.
Today, we delve deeper and pick out the top five defenders who had a big impact on their respective team’s fortunes in the Hero ISL 2019-20.
1. Mourtada Fall – FC Goa
Picking up from exactly where he left off last season, the Senegalese played an important role in the Gaurs topping the league table and winning the Hero ISL 2019-20 League Winners Shield. The towering centre-back was a wall personified for opposition attackers, as he combined his strength, aerial prowess and recovery ability to starve oppositions of scoring opportunities. Having already proved his worth at the other of the pitch last season, Fall took it a step further this term, scoring five times and laying three assists in his 19 matches this term. His passing accuracy stood at a massive 87.32% - the best by any player in the division – which was an important piece in Goa’s philosophy of playing out from the back. Fall accounted for a total of 67 tackles, 191 clearances and 22 blocks this season.
2. Juanan – Bengaluru FC
A model of consistency, the Spaniard was a major reason behind Bengaluru keeping a league-high 11 clean sheets and conceding the least number of goals in the division. The 32-year-old was the only constant in the centre-back department for the Blues, with Rahul Bheke and Albert Serran both missing games due to injury and suspensions. Juanan played 19 matches, scoring one goal and his passing accuracy was close to 80%. While his defensive stats featuring 138 clearances, 24 tackles, 15 interceptions and 23 blocks might seem on the lower side compared to his other peers in the list, the Spaniard’s biggest strength lies in his game reading ability and organizational skills, enabling the team to snuff out dangers in the bud, limiting the requirements for taking last-ditch preventive measures.
3. Lucian Goian – Chennaiyin FC
Like the Marina Machans, the Romanian also had a slow start to the season but picked up his performance after Owen Coyle’s arrival. Although attack was very much Coyle’s focus, defensive solidity was just as important and Goian ensured that the required standards were met, week in week out. The 37-year-old also scored the all-important goal against former club Mumbai City FC, which helped Chennaiyin advance to the semi-finals. The goal was one of the two he scored in 20 matches in the Hero ISL 2019-20. His passing accuracy stood at 80.37%, whilst he had 228 clearances, 49 interceptions and 62 tackles to his name – some staggering numbers.
4. Subhasish Bose – Mumbai City FC
Ever-present for the Islanders, the 24-year-old was probably one of the club’s top performers in the Hero ISL 2019-20 alongside midfielder Rowllin Borges. While constant changes in the centre-back partnerships due to various reasons throughout the season made things complicated for Mumbai, Subhasish’s solidity at right back helped mitigate the problem for Mumbai somewhat. The youngster always put his best foot forward, even proving his worth at the other end of the pitch. He scored one goal and provided two assists in his 18 matches. At the other end, the 24-year-old accounted for a considerable 114 clearances, 56 tackles and 35 blocks.
5. Prabir Das – ATK FC
Possibly the best Indian defender in the Hero ISL 2019-20, Prabir had a sensational season, which earned him widespread plaudits from all over. The 26-year-old was key in ATK’s title-winning run, whipping in dangerous crosses almost at will and covering the length of the right-wing tirelessly to help out the back three. Prabir’s almost telepathic understanding with the ATK forwards added a new dimension to Antonio Habas’ side and proved integral to their historic third title. In 20 matches, Prabir provided five assists and attempted a massive 66 crosses – highest in the league. He was just as good defensively, accounting for 64 tackles, 85 clearances and 32 interceptions. Having missed the entirety of last season with a horrific knee injury, the Kolkata-born player bounced back with a purpose and established himself as one of the biggest stars in Hero ISL 2019-20.