Chennai City's title charge has been powered by its Spanish contingent, while East Bengal has had a Mexican and an Indian lead the way. Here, Sportstar looks at five players who have been instrumental for their teams with their goal-scoring and goal-creating exploits.
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The scoring machine of Chennai City FC who has contributed 20 of the 45 goals that the team has managed so far. The Spanish striker has donned the role of a finisher quite well hardly ever missing an opportunity to find the net from inside the box. His canny sense of position is remarkable which he has shown in combining successfully with his compatriots Sandro Rodriguez and Nestor Gordillo. Injuries and a drop in form kept him quiet early in the season but he became unstoppable as the season progressed. Manzi has scored four hat-tricks so far and this keeps him ahead in the run for the golden boot.
The man who kept Churchill Brothers in the hunt for the title for a long time scoring a remarkable 20 of the 34 goals so far scored by his team. The Trinidad and Tobago striker has been one of the most consistent performers as he prepared himself well after forgetful seasons with East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting clubs before joining Churchill Brothers where his abilities blossomed. Plaza remained the key in Churchill Brothers plans and showed the best form in the second phase of the tournament.
Read: How costly will Justin, Nestor's absence be for title-chasing Chennai, East Bengal
The East Bengal attacking midfielder is currently leading the charts as the highest Indian goal scorer with nine goals and is the joint topper in the side with the Mexican striker Enrique Esqueda. The latter’s job became easier as Justin lends dynamism to the East Bengal attack adopting a free role in the attacking third. Justin’s sudden bursts of speed has the potential of upsetting the defensive array of any side and created decisive openings in the opposition back-line that resulted in a goal more often than not. Making his way from the shores of Vettucaud in Thiruvananthapuram, the Kerala striker is definitely one of the best Indian talents to emerge from I-League this season. Earning his first professional contract from East Bengal, Justin grabbed the opportunity to show his exceptional talents.
The Spanish winger did a yeoman’s service for Chennai City with his remarkable skills and passing ability that kept the team’s goal machine and his compatriot always active. Nestor was responsible in channelising the attacks through the flanks while liaising with Manzi, who did the finishing act in the box. No wonder that Gordillo made nine assists so far while scoring eight goals to be the key contributor in Chennai City’s offensive plans.
Edwin Sydney Vanspaul
He is another prominent Indian name to emerge from the tournament with his exceptional ability in Chennai City FC midfield. Coach Akbar Nawas put a lot of faith in his abilities making him one of the best midfielders in the I-League. Edwin plays a key role in the team with his versatility which sees him switch to different roles according to situation. He can play as a winger, in the central midfield and also as an outright striker making him a key name in Nawas’ possession-based football. After East Bengal’s Lalrindika Ralte, Edwin is the second Indian name in the chart of most assists in the tournament making six assists so far.