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ISL: Five Home-grown Stars Raising The Bar For Indian Football

Like the previous eight editions, the ninth iteration of the Indian Super League (ISL) has also provided Indian players with the best platform to display their talent to a worldwide audience.

As we enter the business end of the competition in ISL season 9, it is now time to dissect and analyze the numbers and select the cream of the crop.

In this article, we take a look at the five Indian stars who have raised the bar for Indian football in 2022/23 ISL:

#5 Anwar Ali (Goa)

After an impressive 2021-22 ISL season, Anwar Ali has only improved his game this season. Rumours are linking him to mega-money moves, and while none of those might be set in stone, it is perfectly understandable why clubs are willing to break the bank for the youngster.

The centre-back has had a big role to play in four of Goa's clean sheets - against Chennaiyin, Jamshedpur, ATK Mohun Bagan and Odisha. Besides that, he has also contributed in the attacking department, scoring one goal and giving two assists, all of which came in the two fixtures against the Mariners.

From the Gaurs' defensive department, he has the second-highest number of successful tackles (16). Besides that, he also has used his defensive sense to make some crucial interceptions - amounting to 17 in 14 matches.

#4 Aakash Sangwan (Chennaiyin)

Aakash Sangwan is not a name many Indian football enthusiasts would have heard before this season, simply because he had never featured in ISL previously. The 27-year-old left-back had a good last season for RoundGlass Punjab, which helped him get a move to Chennaiyin.

However, with the experienced Narayan Das already playing for the Marina Machans, Sangwan was never really expected to get many opportunities. Things changed when Das suffered a big injury, and having got his chance, the player from Haryana made it count in a spectacular manner.

In only his third match of the season against East Bengal, he not only helped his team keep a clean sheet but also assisted the goal which turned out to be the winner. That performance proved to be enough for head coach Thomas Brdaric to make Sangwan a regular feature in the side, and he has not left the team down.

While it might be worrying that clean sheets have tried up ever since the left-back has been an attacking threat as well as a reliable defender. After the match against the Torchbearers, he added three more assists to his name - against NorthEast United, Jamshedpur and Hyderabad.

#3 Lalengmawia Ralte Apuia (Mumbai City)

It is not very easy to make a name in a team that is absolutely packed with overseas stalwarts like Greg Stewart and Ahmed Jahouh, but the Mizo midfielder has done it with sublime ease. He has contributed across all departments - both in defense and in the attack.

As for the latter, the 22-year-old has scored three goals, two of them coming against East Bengal with the other being scored against Bengaluru. Ralte has been responsible for recycling many of Mumbai City's attacks from the midfield, having made 346 successful passes in his 11 appearances.

Besides that, he also has had a great influence on the team's defensive play. The Islanders have kept six clean sheets so far, and Apuia featured in five of those matches. He also averages one successful tackle per game.

#2 Liston Colaco (ATK Mohun Bagan)

Liston Colaco might have scored only one goal in the league so far, which in comparison to his eight goals in the 2021-22 ISL season, might seem like a disappointment.

However, a closer inspection of ATK Mohun Bagan's matches will show how the winger has been responsible for the majority of his team's attacks.

Besides finding the back of the net against NorthEast United, Colaco also assisted four goals - two of them coming against Kerala Blasters, with the other two coming against Mumbai City and Goa.

The 24-year-old has created 12 big chances in his 13 appearances, with none of the Mariners' Indian players topping that figure. Liston could also consider himself a tad unlucky this season.

#1 Halicharan Narzary (Hyderabad)

An injury kept Halicharan Narzary out of action for much of Hyderabad's superb 2021-22 ISL season, where they won the title. Even in the five matches that he did play last season, Narzary could not score any goal.

However, this season has panned out like a dream for the experienced winger. The 28-year-old has scored three goals - against Mumbai City, NorthEast United and Chennaiyin. Besides that, he also has assisted five goals - twice against the Highlanders and once each against Odisha, Bengaluru and Goa.

He has had the most shots among the Nizams' Indian brigade (21), while also being second in terms of chances created, with 19 chances to his name in 13 appearances.

Author: Mohak Arora, Sports Expert, Parimatch brand

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Story first published: Thursday, January 19, 2023, 12:13 [IST]
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