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

A week after the I-League came to an end, Goal.com looks back at the season that passed by and picks out the best three forwards of the competition...

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.

There have been plenty of high-scoring matches this season and a few strikers caught everyone's eye with their consistency and strike rate.

Goal looks at the Top 3 strikers in this year's I-League. We also seperately named 3 other players then, who missed the cut by a whisker. It's of little surprise that only one Indian could make it into the final six.

 Ranti Martins | Prayag United

After completing a much talked about transfer to Prayag United last summer from Dempo, Ranti Martins retained the highest scorer’s trophy this season by scoring 27 goals, 7 more than the second placed Odafa Okolie of Mohun Bagan. The talismanic Nigerian forward played a large part in Prayag’s success, as the big budget side made it into the top four of the 14-team tournament.

Like every other year, Ranti turned out to be a fox in the box, going past hapless defenders at will. He even scored five goals in one match when his side thrashed United Sikkim 10-1 in a home match in November last year. Full credit should be given to him for scoring almost half of his team’s goals (55), in a display that is consistent with his reputation as a reliable striker in the I-League.

 Odafa Okolie | Mohun Bagan AC

Odafa Okolie is a well-known face in Indian football for his trickery with the ball in the attacking third and a high goal-scoring rate throughout the season. This time also, the Nigerian hitman did justice to his name as he put the ball 20 times in the opponents’ net in a controversy-shrouded season for the Mariners.

Mohun Bagan signed Odafa 2 years back for an astronomical price, which is often rumoured to be close to 2 crores. The return for the money spent was brilliant as the forward got used to carry the responsibility of scoring goals on his broad shoulders even when he had minimal support from the midfield. In the first half of the I-League, with Tolgay Ozbey suffering from an ankle injury, millions of Green and Maroon faithful looked up to him. He didn’t disappoint them as he became synonymous with Mohun Bagan for the first few matches of the season. Despite a few minor injury breaks, he continued to chip in with stellar performances whenever the team needed it the most.

The interesting fact is that Odafa has scored in all the 10 matches Mohun Bagan has won this season, which epitomizes the importance of “King Cobra” in the Mariners’ squad.

  James Moga | Pune FC

Pune FC, the six-year old club had a dream season as they  finished second in the I-League 2012-12. The Red Lizards boast of a squad full of talented players, but it was James Moga, the South Sudanese striker who turned out to be the star of the show for the Pune outfit.

Moga left Sporting Clube de Goa and joined his new club on June 23rd, 2012. Since then, James has become the primary force upfront for Pune as he paired up brilliantly with the likes of Jeje Lalpekhlua and Subhash Singh. The forward has scored 16 goals in the current edition of I-League, with none of them being from the penalty spot. It is of no surprise that Moga is center of many discussions in the transfer season, with a number of clubs being interested to avail his service.

Now we take a look at the goal poachers who have received an honourable mention.

 Chidi Edeh | East Bengal

Though East Bengal could manage only the third spot in the I-League after managing a good start, no one dared question the performance of Chidi Edeh, such was his performance throughout the marathon affair. A few eyebrows were raised when the Nigerian goal-machine joined East Bengal at the start of the season after having a goal-drought in Salgaocar last year. But things were different this time as the prolific scorer regained his form under the guidance of Trevor James Morgan and became one of the most dangerous poachers in the opponent box.

Chidi scored 18 goals in the I-League and was the solo hope of the Red and Gold supporters when Manandeep Singh, Robin Singh and Penn Orji were all out of form. The particular calendar year has been outstanding for him, as he now also features in the top 10 scorers list of the AFC Cup, courtesy his hat-trick against Yangon United a few days ago.

 Sunil Chhetri | Churchill Brothers

The Indian captain had a dry spell at the Sporting Lisbon where he could secure only a handful of playing opportunities. He then opted for a winter swoop and joined Churchill Brothers in their mission of winning the I-League. The mission was well accomplished and the Indian skipper became one of the major faces of their success in the business end of the season.

Sunil had been often criticized for his lackluster performances in the club tournaments, an allegation that had enough substance in it. However, this time was all different, as the star created chances and also scored goals when they were needed. The brace against Dempo was his best of the season as it brought Churchill back in course for the title-hunt. It has to be seen whether Chhetri continues with the Red Machines in the coming season also.

 Henry Antchouet| Churchill Brothers

Henry Antchouet was the highest scorer for Churchill Brothers, the champions of the I-League 2012-13. He scored 14 goals and paired up well first with Lebanese Akram Moghrabi and then with Sunil Chhetri. Though he had a few dry spells midway into the season, his pace and ball control wreaked havoc in the attacking third at times. His best performance of the season came against East Bengal when he scored a brace in his side’s comprehensive 3-0 win in Kolkata.

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

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