Indian Super League best XI: Coro, Ogbeche lead team of the season
Bengaluru beat Goa 1-0 in the final to claim their maiden ISL title on Sunday. But who were ISL's best players this season? Here's our team of the tournament.
GK - Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (Bengaluru FC)
India's No.1 goalkeeper kept his seventh clean sheet of the season in the final -- ahead of Pawan Kumar and Amrinder Singh, who both had six each. Without John Johnson for the first time in their history, Bengaluru didn't always have a confident backline, and Sandhu's solidity made a huge difference.
Right-back - Seriton Fernandes (FC Goa)
Rahul Bheke of Bengaluru FC had a good season too, but Seriton stood out for maintaining a high standard of play throughout. Brave and precise when tackling, boundless in energy and increasingly confident moving forward, the India call-up cannot be long for him.
Centre-back - Mourtada Fall (FC Goa)
The big Senegalese was exceptional at the heart of Goa's defence, neutralising attacking threats right through the season. His versatility shone through with four goals, two of them in the 5-1 win against Mumbai City in the semi-final.
Centre-back - Tiri (Jamshedpur FC)
One of the most tenacious defenders in the ISL, Tiri led the Jamshedpur line admirably, and nudges out Lucian Goian for the second centre-back slot in this team. The only disappointment would be his output in terms of being a threat from set-pieces, with just one goal in a 2-2 draw away to Delhi Dynamos.
Left-back - Nishu Kumar (Bengaluru FC)
In a season of some good performances by left-backs, especially converted ones like Mandar Rao Desai, Nishu stood out for his contribution to attack for Bengaluru. He showed his finishing with a pile-driver that brought BFC back into a tough game at home against Jamshedpur, and his defending improved as the season went along.
Right midfield - Jackichand Singh (FC Goa)
This should have been a shoo-in for Udanta Singh, but it would be unfair to not recognise Jackichand's contribution to FC Goa this season. Four goals and four assists don't fully convey the confidence with which he linked up with Coro and other attacking players to take the game to the opposition. Most of his goals were worthy contenders for goal of the season, too.
Central midfield - Ahmed Jahouh (FC Goa)
With the final left to play, Jahouh had already completed close to 1,400 passes for the season, and that is the essence of his game. The man pulling the strings at the heart of Goa's midfield kept his team ticking to the best possible degree. Goa might be an attacking side but its foundation is Jahouh in the middle.
Central midfield - Redeem Tlang (NorthEast United)
A slightly left-of-field pick, especially when you consider Tlang played along the wings for NorthEast United through most of the season. His work rate would belong in central midfield, with an accent on attack. A versatility of roles would make him the perfect candidate for a mid-game shift in formation, with potential to drop wide, deep or even further forward.
Left midfield - Sunil Chhetri (Bengaluru FC)
Chhetri beats out the enormously talented Brandon Fernandes on two counts -- greater consistency, especially in crunch games, and his nine goals for the season. Bengaluru missed Miku for much of the season, and Chhetri invariably delivered with critical goals that always kept them near the top of the table.
Forward - Coro (FC Goa)
Arguably the best player in the league this year, Coro's 16 goals and seven assists leading into the final make him one of the first names on the sheet for team of the season. If you look closer, there were no extravagant finishes, though -- just a tendency to make himself available at the right place at the right time. Time after time after time.
Forward - Bartholomew Ogbeche (NorthEast United)
One of only two men with hat-tricks for the season (Mumbai's Modou Sougou, whom he edges out, had two), Ogbeche scored 12 goals to lead NorthEast United's first charge to the ISL playoffs. He strained a hamstring during the first leg in Guwahati, but his coach made him sit in the dugout for the return leg, just for his inspirational presence. Also offers an option for captain, which could really go to any of Sandhu, Fall, Chhetri or Coro too.
Coach - Eelco Schattorie (NorthEast United)
The two Spaniards, Carles Cuadrat and Sergio Lobera, had excellent seasons too. Indeed, one could argue that Lobera has, in two seasons, converted FC Goa into the most watchable team in the league. But Schattorie nudges them out because he made a young NorthEast team punch above its weight consistently. They lost key players ahead of their semi-final away leg to Cuadrat's Bengaluru, and lost their best player on the pitch with multiple fractures in a second-half tackle. They never gave in, though, and that was a reflection of how solid their coach made them.