Top performing defensive mainstays from Hero ISL 2020-21
A solid backline is the cornerstone for any title-winning team and this proved to be true as the two sides with the best defences qualified for the final of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21. Over the course of Hero ISL 2020-21, we witnessed defensive personnel from all teams making important contributions to keep their side in the hunt for a top-four finish. After another exciting Hero ISL campaign, we pick out the defenders who made the biggest impact on their respective teams’ fortunes from the season gone by.
Mourtada Fall was at his best once again in the recently concluded season, helping Mumbai City FC clinch both the League Winners Shield as well as the Hero ISL title. The Senegalese defender made 133 clearances and 50 tackles in 22 appearances besides also scoring four goals. His goals came at crucial moments of the season, including Mumbai City FC’s last league stage game of the campaign. His defensive contributions helped the Islanders to 10 clean sheets and he also had a strong passing accuracy of 84.08% in keeping with head coach Sergio Lobera’s philosophy.
Returning from a long-term injury, Sandesh Jhingan enjoyed his debut season with ATK Mohun Bagan. His defensive contributions for the Mariners included 119 clearances, 52 tackles, 40 blocks and 26 interceptions as the Kolkata giants kept 10 clean sheets and conceded just 19 goals, the least by any team in Hero ISL 2020-21. Although Jhingan was unable to help his side to any silverware, his strong performances were rewarded with an expected return to the Indian national team for the upcoming friendlies against Oman and UAE.
Benjamin Lambot joined NorthEast United FC ahead of Hero ISL 2020-21 and became an integral part of the team that qualified for the semi-finals only for the second time in the club’s history. He played 21 matches for the Highlanders, making 79 clearances, 39 tackles, 33 blocks and 28 interceptions for them. Lambot also scored twice and was strong in the air both while defending and attacking set-pieces for NorthEast United FC.
Chinglensana Singh moved to Hyderabad FC after three seasons with FC Goa and head coach Manuel Marquez seemed to be get the best out of him. The 24-year-old defender made 18 appearances for Hyderabad FC, and his 76 clearances and 26 tackles helped Hyderabad FC keep seven clean sheets as the Telangana-based club came close to a place in the top-four. His strong performances also earned him a call-up to the Indian national team for the upcoming friendlies to be hosted in Dubai.
The Spanish defender was a rock at the back for Hyderabad FC and built a strong defensive partnership with Chinglensana in the team’s backline. Playing 20 matches for his side in his debut Hero ISL season, Odei had a strong passing accuracy of 82.46%. His 80 clearances, 36 tackles and 36 blocks helped Hyderabad FC mount a challenge for the top-four. Although they were unable to make it to the semi-finals, Odei was one of the best defenders in the recently concluded season and a nightmare for opposition attackers looking to get beyond him.
Stephen Eze was a towering presence in the backline for Jamshedpur FC and helped them while defending and attacking set-pieces. Among the best players for his team this season, the 27-year-old defender was the joint highest goal-scoring defender with four goals to his name, alongside Fall. Defensively, he made 60 interceptions – more than any other player in the league – and also completed 118 clearances, 64 tackles and 35 blocks for Owen Coyle’s men.