Goal I-League 2012-13 Special: Top 3 Defenders

As the I-League has come to a close with Churchill Brothers sealing the title, Goal takes a look at the Top Foreign as well as Domestic defenders in this season...

Another season of the I-League is done and dusted with, and Churchill managed to clinch the title in the penultimate round this season. The Goans won their second I-League football title by playing out a 1-1 draw against Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan.

Although there have been plenty of high scoring matches in this season's I-League yet some teams have come up with fantastic defensive displays especially East Bengal's remarkable run of 10 games where they conceded only the solitary goal.

Goal looks at the Top 3 Defenders this season. We do divide the ranking among Foreign defenders and Indian defenders to be fair in our assessment.

We begin by looking at the foreign defenders as almost every I-League team has employed a big burly foreign central defender at the back albeit with varied results.

The names are arranged alphabetically.

 Bilal Najjarin | Churchill Brothers

In spite of playing only 15 I-League matches for Churchill Brothers before deciding to leave the club, such has been the impact of the 6ft 2in Lebanese centre-back that he can waltz into the Top Defender listing at the end of the season, without much of an effort. During his time at the club, Churchill had let in only 13 goals in the I-League, while conceding a massive 19 in the remaining 16 games in all competitions.

The Goans could have certainly made use of him in their faltering AFC Cup campaign where they leaked goals aplenty. Bilal was a commanding figure as he held the backline together with superior command of the area. Not only a good header of the ball he could also read the game as well as anybody and hence did not need to jump into risky tackles by relying on his pace and anticipation to intercept the danger. Besides that, he would boss some of the most dangerous foreign forwards in the I-League, marking them completely out of the game.

 Luciano Sobrosa | Salgaocar FC

Funnily enough last year's outright Best defender of the season would have probably found himself as one of the worst this season when Salgaocar started off with Karim Bencherifa at the helm. After Bencherifa left and Sobrosa too returned to the fold after an injury, the rock solid centre-back certainly showed that he had lost none of the form that had seen him being named among Goal's 2011-12 I-League Top defenders. In the next 11 matches under David Booth, Salgaocar had conceded only 9 goals while they have conceded 29 in the entire season. Moreover Sobrosa also scored two goals during his comeback trail, including the winning goal against Prayag United which ended 1-0 in the Goan's favour.

 Uga Okpara | East Bengal

Uga Okpara has proved time and again of his caliber as he has been a mean presence in the East Bengal backline. This time he has gone the extra step as he and his partner in crime, Arnab Mondal has allowed the Red and Gold to have the tightest defense in the entire league having conceded only 18 goals the entire season. What is more scary is that in their first ten games of the season the Okpara led East Bengal team had just let in a single goal, being all the way undefeated. A great man marker, Okpara can stop any and every forward in the league and also has great organisational skills, especially with East Bengal shuffling their goalkeepers a lot.

Among the Top 3 Indian defenders in the League, it is no surprise that we include one each from the Top 3 teams in the League.

  Anas Edathodika | Pune FC

Anas Edathodika had a brilliant season this year with Pune FC who finished runners up in the I-League this season. Such was the importance of his presence at the back that he was awarded the Pune FC Player of the season too. Even statistics are a proof of his excellent defending as Pune FC have conceded a league third best 26 goals. Even more astounding is his impeccable fitness levels as he has turned up for all of Pune's 26 matches this season, missing none.

 Arnab Mondal | East Bengal

The reason why East Bengal have failed to capture their maiden I-League crown might be many but if you had to pin point one reason, you would stick your neck out to say that its probably due to the unfortunate injury to their stalwart at the back, Arnab Mondal. Joining the Red and Gold from Prayag United, Mondal continued the good work which saw him being chased by Trevor Morgan and testament to that claim was the ridiculous tally of only 1 goal conceded in their first ten matches when he played. Being called to the national team on the basis of this display, the injury also kept him out of claiming his rightful spot for the Blue Tigers.

 Dharmaraj Ravanan | Churchill Brothers

Churchill's title win coupled with their miserly defense having conceded only 22 goals in the entire season might be down to Bilal Najjarin but the contribution of Ravanan cannot be overlooked. Having started 25 of his team's 26 matches, playing a sum total of 2209 minutes, Ravanan was the reason that Churchill kept on being solid even when the Lebanese international left. Teaming up with new man, Lamine Tamba with equal ease, Ravanan is equally responsible for the I-League triumph as any of his more illustrious colleagues.

Who have been the best defenders in the I-League this season in your view? Let us know by commenting below...

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