Another season of the I-League is done and dusted with, and with several high scoring games this campaign, it can be easily concluded that the level of defending in the league hasn’t been up to expected levels, for a tournament of this magnitude.
Even the more experienced and quality defenders of the league haven’t had a vintage season.
Some of the players though, still stood out above the mediocre displays of their fellow defenders.
Goal.com shortlists three of the best on show this campaign who played crucial roles in their team not conceding many goals.
Uga Okpara| East Bengal
Okpara Has Been A Rock At The Back For The Kolkatan Outfit....
The East Bengal defender made it a habit this season to appear in Goal.com’s Team of the Round, and it's a testament to the quality and consistency of the player, who has been a rock at the back for Trevor Morgan’s side this year.
He has throughout the season physically dominated opposition strikers and has shown brilliant positional sense to cut out any danger that may arise infront of the Kolkatan outfit’s goal.
While East Bengal only have the third tightest defense in the league, it would have been much worse if the Nigerian was not playing for them at centre-back, as while Okpara has been a model of consistency, East Bengal’s defense has been consistently tinkered with throughout the season and the two goalkeepers who have played at various parts of the campaign have also failed to command their area confidently, leading to soft goals being conceded.
The 27 year old has also been a force to reckon with in the opponent’s box, as he managed to find the back of the net thrice this season.
Luciano Sobrosa| Salgaocar SC
Sobrosa Has Been A Calming Influence In Defense For The Goan Side...
The rugged Brazilian may not have been able to lead Salgaocar towards a successful defense of their I-League title, but Sobrosa or his defensive partners are not at all to blame for the Goan side’s failure to win the league this season.
With the tightest backline in the league, it’s the total inability of their frontline to win them games that has cost Karim Bencherifa’s side this campaign. Much of the blame also has to be shouldered by their poor transfer policy last summer wherein they bought some mediocre players and in Chidi Edeh, a foreign striker, who doesn't fit into their style of play.
The Brazilian himself has been a calming influence at the back. A good reader of the game and brilliant in the air, the Salgaocar faithful will hope the 32 year old stays with the club for several years to come. He is arguably the best foreign defender in the league for three seasons in a row.
Mahesh Gawli| Dempo SC
Gawli Is One Of The Most Astute Readers Of The Game...
The Dempo veteran has had another exemplary year for the Goans, as he led them to another I-League title this season.
Partnering Cressan Antao for most of the season, Gawli and his younger colleague were a formidable barrier infront of goalkeeper Subhasish Chowdhury throughout the campaign. Antao in particular profited a lot from playing alongside the former Indian international, who has taken on the role of mentor to his younger teammates, and has done an excellent job in helping them get through games without leaking in many goals.
Gawli is an expert in denying any sort of space to the rival side’s attackers infront of goal and his remarkable positional sense allows him to snuff out any counter-attacks that the opposition might look to launch.
Having retired from national duty, Armando Colaco must be hoping that the extra rest allows the defender to further his club career by a few years.
Who have been the best defenders in the I-League this season in your view? Let us know by commenting below...