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ISL 2018-19: Prolific centre-forwards have been the key in the race to the playoffs

06:00 GMT+4 26/02/2019
FC Goa ATK Ferran Corominas
Having a top striker has been a common feature in the four teams which have progressed to the playoffs....

The Indian Super League (ISL) playoff berths have now been sealed with Bengaluru FC, FC Goa, Mumbai City and NorthEast United the four teams that have managed to book their passage.

One glance across the four qualified teams shows that they have one key aspect in common – the presence of a prolific centre-forward.

The importance of having a top striker in the side has not been lost on the ISL teams over the years and the league table for the 2018-19 season has only strengthened that notion.

League leaders Bengaluru have in fact two strikers of quality in the form of Miku and Sunil Chhettri. With the former missing a chunk of the season through an injury, the centre-forward duties have been shared between the two players. Their combined output for the season so far has been 12 goals with Chhetri contributing eight of them.

Meanwhile, Sergio Lobera has led Goa to the playoffs for the second year in a row in blazing fashion with his side once again leading the charts when it comes to the number of goals scored. It has been Ferran Corominas who has once again led Goa’s charge with the Spanish striker bagging 14 goals already in the season so far.

Corominas had beaten Miku to the Golden Boot last season with 18 goals and the Spaniard looks destined to make it two in a row with the latter’s campaign majorly hampered by injury.

One of the revelations of the season have been Mumbai City FC with Jorge Costa’s men putting together an impressive run in the first half of the season to book their place in the top-four. The Islanders have Modou Sougou to thank majorly for their excellent campaign with the Senegalese striker scoring 12 of the 24 goals his side have scored so far.

Sogou is only behind Corominas in the goal-scoring charts for the season so far and is joined in second place by Bartholomew Ogbeche. While Sogou has been crucial to Mumbai’s goal output, Ogbeche has been even more pivotal for NorthEast United in their march to the playoffs.

The Nigerian centre-forward has taken the league by storm and has contributed 12 of the 22 goals the Highlanders have scored in their campaign.

Its clear to see that a prolific centre-forward of quality is the common theme across the four teams in the playoffs. Lower down the table, sides lacking in the strikers’ department have struggled. Jamshedpur and ATK have narrowly missed out on the playoff berths and both teams have been hampered by injuries to their key strikers during the course of the season.

While ATK have had to deal with a long-term layoff for Kalu Uche, Jamshedpur were not able to extract the most out of Tim Cahill as well with the Australian’s ISL campaign cut short due to injury.

FC Pune City would have been banking on goals from Emiliano Alfaro at the start of the season but the Uruguayan failed to come to the party before being sent on loan to ATK. It has been Brazilian playmaker Marcelinho who has had to shoulder most of the goal-scoring burden with six goals to his name. Alfaro, in fact, was injured after joining ATK and failed to make an appearance for them.

Kerala Blasters’ struggles this season have been exemplified by the fact that their main centre-forward Matej Poplatnik has only scored four goals. Similarly, Delhi Dynamos’ horrendous campaign boils down to the lack of a prolific centre-forward with the club having to release Andrija Kaluderovic in the winter transfer window.

At the bottom of the table are defending champions Chennaiyin and they only know too well the important of having a prolific centre-forward. Their star forward Jeje Lalpekhlua has failed to repeat his exploits from last season where he scored nine goals. Howev, iner 2018-19, he has yielded just the solitary goal.

Prolific strikers remain like gold dust in the ISL and the 2018-19 season has shown us that once again.