Guardian angels: Top five defenders from Hero ISL 2021-22 season

In a Hero Indian Super League (ISL) season that saw goals galore, there were defenders who still made life difficult for attackers.

What stood out this season was the rise of young padawans who defied the age-old recipe of experience mixed with a big reputation to get the job done. A refreshing crop of young Indian talent capitalised on opportunities thrown their way that made Hero ISL 2021-22 season even more special.

Roshan Naorem

A defender with an attacking guise has gone beyond his role to give Bengaluru FC a flexible optionon the flanks. Roshan earned the Emerging Player of the Season Award for his 77 tackles, 27 interceptions, 40 clearances and 37 blocks to highlight his memorable campaign that saw him provide seven assists (most assists by an Indian defender this season) and score one goal.

Akash Mishra

Another young defender to leave his mark with an added skill-set of attacking fullback, Akash has consistently made crucial runs on the flank to create goalscoring opportunities while making 97 tackles, 62 clearances, and 57 interceptions. Hyderabad FC ended up conceding second-fewest goals in the league stage, 23 goals, behind Jamshedpur FC (21).

Tiri

An experienced campaigner with over 110 Hero ISL matches, Tiri has showcased that he has got better with age like fine wine. The ATK Mohun Bagan defender made 89 clearances, 51 interceptions, 42 tackles and 36 blocks all while maintaining an impressive passing accuracy of 81.16%.

Peter Hartley

The skipper of Jamshedpur FC, Peter Hartley arrived fast and strong to defend the castles of the Men of Steel to help them win League Winners’ Shield when it went down the wire against ATK Mohun Bagan in the final league stage match of the season, bagging the Hero of the Match award in the crucial contest. Overall, Hartley racked 72 clearances, 39 tackles, and 23 interceptions with three goals coming from set-piece situations.

Ruivah Hormipam

The 21-year-old defender found himself starting for Kerala Blasters FC consistently. Hormipam fit perfectly in Ivan Vukomanovic’s blueprint to win this season. In 14 appearances this season, Hormipam made 57 tackles, 67 clearances, and 31 interceptions. His impressive run in March earned him the Emerging Play of the Month Award from critics.

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