Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably the best manager in modern football once said that "attack wins you games, defense wins you titles." That is perhaps one of the most accurate football quotes ever and it applies to the beautiful game, irrespctive of where it is played.
This season in the Indian Super League, every manager was trying to tighten their defense but many got it wrong while many astute tacticians found the right solution to shut up their shops whenever required.
Let's have a look at five best defenders of the 2019-20 season of the Indian Super League.
#5 Mandar Rao Dessai
The FC Goa skipper was played as a left-back as an experiment by Sergio Lobera but the 27-year old surprisingly made the position his own and even started for the Indian national team as a left-back in the FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.
With the solid figure of Seriton Fernandes stationed at the right side of the defense, Mandar gets the freedom to roam forward and put in crosses for the strikers in the middle. Dessai put 32 crosses and recorded 4 assists this season adding another dimension to FC Goa's attack.
The club captain made 17 interceptions and 40 successful tackles demonstrating his importance on both ends of the pitch.
#4 Pritam Kotal
The 26-year old was easily displaced by Rahul Bheke as India's first-choice right-back due to Kotal's inability to contribute in attacks. But the utility defender has found his best position under the ATK manager Antonio Lopez Habas.
Playing at the right of the back three and filling in the right wing-back role when ATK were defending leads, Kotal was outstanding throughout the season. He made 27 interceptions and 65 successful tackles in 18 matches this season.
Stamping his authority in the team, Kotal started all the league matches of ATK this season and will be hoping to help the club lift the Indian Super League trophy for the third time.
#3 Seriton Fernandes
The 27-year old right-back started his career with Dempo and had spells with Churchill Brothers and Sporting Goa before signing for FC Goa. A Goan at heart, Fernandes has highly impressed as a full-back under Sergio Lobera and apparently, Igor Stimac is eyeing him for a much-deserved call-up to the national team set-up.
Since the starting of the 2017-18 season, Fernandes has been the undisputed first-choice right-back for the Gaurs. His excellent defensive attributes coupled with his accurate crossing is an enviable trait for any full-back in the country.
Fernandes has 30 interceptions and 87 successful tackles this season, the fifth most for any player in the league the 19-20 season.
ATK with Agus in defense and without Agus in defense look like two completely different teams. The experienced Spanish centre-back adds a lot of composure and solidity in the defense.
The 34-year old was on the pitch for every minute in just 12 matches and the Kolkata-based club kept 8 clean sheets in his presence. In the other six matches, ATK kept just one clean sheet signifying his importance to ATK's defensive setup.
All ATK fans will be wishing for the return of their experienced defender for the knockout stages as he is currently unavailable due to a personal problem.
The 32-year old Spanish centre-back has been an ever-present in the league's best defense this season barring the penultimate match of the league stage against Kerala Blasters.
The Blues kept 10 clean sheets in the 17 matches that Juanan featured in, conceding only 11 goals in the other seven matches at an excellent rate of conceding a goal every 140 minutes.
The defending Indian Super League champions were a bit rusty in attack this season, scoring only 22 goals, the joint third-lowest tally in the league alongside Jamshedpur FC. But their defense was solid like a rock helping the Blues qualify for the semi-final where they will be facing the consistent ATK side.Published 26 Feb 2020, 21:54 IST