Five strikers who made a lasting impression in Hero ISL 2019-20

Scoring goals have always been the primary objective of football and the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 treated fans with 294 of these, at a stunning average of 3.09 goals per match, making it the most goal-laden season in the history of the competition. The attacking trend can largely be attributed to the offensive intent shown by most of the teams involved, facilitated by the rich assembly of attacking talents on show.

The competition was especially fierce this season with usual suspects like Ferran Corominas, Bartholomew Ogbeche and Sunil Chhetri firing all cylinders, while newcomers like Roy Krishna, Nerijus Valskis, Aridane Santana, David Williams, Sergio Castel and others also leaving a lasting mark. Looking back, here are the five forwards who had the biggest impact this season.

Nerijus Valskis (Chennaiyin FC)

The Lithuanian took a little time to settle in, but once he got going, the striker looked virtually unstoppable. The Hero ISL 2019-20 Maruti Suzuki Golden Boot winner spearheaded Chennaiyin FC’s miraculous comeback from a slow start and guided them to the final, scoring 15 times and laying out six assists in his 20 matches this season. Apart from his direct goal contributions, Valskis’ hold up play was also a big component of Chennaiyin’s style this season. His instinctive runs off the ball also helped create holes in opposition backlines, bringing teammates like Rafael Crivellaro, Lallianzuala Chhangte and Andre Schembri into the game, which greatly benefitted them and the team as well.

Roy Krishna (ATK FC)

The Fijian had the exact same number of goal contributions as Valskis (15 goals and six assists) but narrowly missed out on the Golden Boot award, having played more minutes than the Chennaiyin hitman. A very different type of player compared to Valskis, Krishna’s game revolves more around his pace, dribbling and ability to take up intelligent positions inside the opposition box, which perfectly complemented Antonio Lopez Habas’ counter attacking style. Krishna was also a natural leader on the field for the champions, often turning the tide in games with moments of individual brilliance.

Bartholomew Ogbeche (Kerala Blasters FC)

Ogbeche narrowly missed out on the Golden Boot award for a second season running. Having scored 12 goals last season in NorthEast colours, Ogbeche raked up 15 in the Kerala Blasters shirt this time. He scored the same number of goals as Valskis and Krishna, but managed the feat in just 16 matches, as compared to Valskis’ 20 and Krishna’s 21. He also had a solitary assist to his name. Despite Ogbeche firing all cylinders, Kerala failed to make it to the semi-finals. However, if they had, few would have bet against the 35-year-old from taking home the Golden Boot, given his technical prowess both on and off the ball.

Ferran Corominas (FC Goa)

Having won the Golden Boot in the last two seasons, the FC Goa talisman may have failed to complete his hat-trick but the Spaniard’s consistent goal-scoring streak continued as he finished the season with 14 goals. He also had four assists to his name. A shrewd customer, capable of timing his runs to perfection to apply the required finishing touch to the Gaurs’ moves, the 37-year-old delighted fans for the third season running with his timeliness and near-perfect finishing. Along with Boumous, Coro was the biggest driving force behind FC Goa topping the league table and securing a place in the AFC Champions League.

Aridane Santana (Odisha FC)

Narrowly seeing off a stiff competition from Bengaluru FC captain Sunil Chhetri, Aridane Santana takes up the final spot in the list. While both have nine goals to their name, Santana has two assists compared to Chhetri’s none. The Spaniard also played fourteen matches, three lesser than the India international. The Spanish striker took time to settle in at Odisha but soon emerged as the focal point of Josep Gombau’s young side and used his physicality to good effect. Besides taking up the role as the team’s attacking spearhead, the 32-year-old also used to drop in deep to run the play and with his contributions, kept Odisha in the race for the top four till late. Unfortunately, just when it seemed like Odisha were gathering up momentum for the final cavalry charge, Santana’s season was cut short because of an injury. Odisha finished sixth in the league table, but the final outcome could have been very different had the Spaniard stayed fit for the entirety of the campaign.

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