Naorem Mahesh Singh may not have recorded any goal contributions in East Bengal FC's goalless draw against Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League (ISL), but the winger played a pivotal role in securing a crucial away point. Despite Mumbai City FC dominating possession, Mahesh's relentless efforts on the right flank, closing down spaces and showing intent in ball-winning, showcased his defensive capabilities akin to a full-back.

It was Mahesh who scored the decisive goal at Mumbai Football Arena last season, leading his team to victory against the Islanders. Once again, Mahesh exhibited defensive prowess at the same venue, contributing significantly to East Bengal FC salvaging a point in a challenging away fixture.

“Keeping clean sheets is important for us. Getting a point against Mumbai City FC away from home is good. Hope we can do the same again in Kolkata against Odisha FC,” Mahesh said in an exclusive interaction with after the game.

A standout player in East Bengal FC's starting eleven this season, Mahesh has contributed two goals and two assists in nine games, matching his goal-scoring tally from the previous season. The notable change in Mahesh's game is his increased contribution at both ends of the pitch.

Reflecting on his growth, Mahesh acknowledged learning valuable lessons from Carles Cuadrat, particularly in the defensive half. He also highlighted the head coach's emphasis on cohesive defensive and attacking play.

“I have learnt a lot from Carles,” he said. 

“I have learnt to compete defensively. As a team, he wants us to play together defensively and the same in the attacking third. I am learning other things also as a player, such as my positioning in defending and how to attack. I want to learn more and help the team get results,” he added.

After maintaining only one clean sheet in their initial five ISL games, East Bengal FC have undergone a significant transformation, securing three consecutive clean sheets in as many matches. During the early stages, Carles Cuadrat's team faced setbacks by dropping points from winning positions in two of their first five matches. Nevertheless, the team has shown substantial progress since the beginning of the season, becoming a formidable force that is challenging to overcome in recent games.

“For me, it’s more about defensive teamwork (that has contributed to the recent results). We would score goals and after the 60th or 70th minute, we would concede. It’s the concentration in the last 20-25 minutes that has helped us,” Mahesh explained. 

When asked about what change he notices in the team from last season, he said: “We were scoring many goals last season. We conceded, but we also scored goals in many of our games. This season we have lost games by narrow margins by either one or two goals.” 

Not only at club level, Mahesh has also been instrumental for the Indian national team. Having made his national team debut earlier this year in March, he has put up tremendous performances on the international stage and won the trust of head coach Igor Stimac. 

“It’s been very good (my time with the national team so far). He (Stimac) is always motivating all youngsters and everyone else. It’s the same with me too and he provides a lot of input. The other seniors in the team such as Sunil (Chhetri) bhai, (Sandesh) Jhingan bhai also do the same with us youngsters. But there is also more pressure when you play for the national team compared to club level,” Mahesh signed off.