ISL Team of the Fortnight: ATKMB’s stars step up

In addition to goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharja, ATK Mohun Bagan contributes two men each in defence and attack to our ISL Team of the Fortnight for February 1-14.

On the rare occasions that ATK Mohun Bagan concedes chances, Arindam has been on hand to shut them out.   -  ISL / Sportzpics

ATK Mohun Bagan’s revival in form, which propelled the side to the top of the Indian Super League (ISL) standings on February 14, has seen several of its key performers step up to the plate. And those players — five in total — have earned their place in our ISL team of the fortnight.

Bagan goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharja might seem to have the easiest job in the team, which is set up to defend deep and deny opposition chances on goal. But on the rare occasions that the team concedes chances, Arindam has been on hand to shut them out. Since February 1, Arindam has effected five saves from six shots on goal in three matches. He made a superb one-handed, diving save at the death off Jamshedpur FC’s Nerijus Valskis to seal Bagan the 1-0 win.

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Arindam’s teammates and centre-backs Tiri and Sandesh Jhingan make their first appearance in our team. When head coach Antonio Habas moved from the three-defender system at the back to a four-man one, he kept faith in Tiri and Jhingan complementing each other, and they did exceedingly well in keeping a check on Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur’s attackers in recent games. The only goal the team conceded in the first half of February came from a stunning long-range effort by Odisha FC’s Cole Alexander.

Jamshedpur right-back Laldinliana Rentheli has been integral to Jamshedpur’s push for a playoffs place. The 22-year-old missed the first four matches of the new year, when Jamshedpur lost thrice and drew once, through injury. Since his return, the team has managed three clean sheets and two wins to keep its dream of a last-four finish alive.

 

It’s becoming difficult to look beyond Hyderabad’s Akash Mishra for the left-back slot and this is his third successive nomination. He helped the team achieve two clean sheets and two wins since February 1 and Hyderabad is now unbeaten in its last nine matches.

Creative midfielders Alberto Noguera and Federico Gallego find a place in the XI for the second fortnight running. Noguera leads the assists chart in the league and added three more since the start of the month in as many outings. The Spaniard played the final pass, slicing through the Chennaiyin FC backline, for Ishan Pandita, who equalised in stoppage time to ensure Goa’s unbeaten run. Gallego has continued his impressive form by scoring and assisting twice in three matches as NorthEast United FC remains unbeaten in six since the arrival of Khalid Jamil in the interim head coach role.

Winger Luis Machado is someone who has profited from Gallego’s return to form and full fitness. The duo has combined to devastating effect with Gallego often finding the run of Machado behind the opposition defenders. Machado won a penalty for Gallego in the 2-2 draw against Goa and scored twice in the win over Odisha FC, when the Uruguayan returned the favour to the Portuguese with a sublime assist.

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Manvir Singh’s move to Mohun Bagan has seemingly provided the forward a new lease of life after a rather forgettable spell with FC Goa. Despite being deployed in a wide role at Bagan, Manvir has been a threat to defences with his penetrative running and shooting ability. He struck two powerful goals with both feet from the right wing in the win over Odisha.

Manvir’s teammate Roy Krishna has been key in helping his team bounce back from a defeat to NorthEast United and register four wins on the bounce, which put Bagan on track in the race for an AFC Champions League spot. He scored six goals and set up two in the last four matches to announce his return to form and put him in the lead in the golden boot race.

It’s difficult to leave out someone with the individual brilliance and ability of SC East Bengal’s Bright Enobakhare despite his team’s poor league position. His quick feet and dribbling ability draw opposition markers closer to him, which in turn helps create space for other attackers to profit from. He scored another superb goal in the draw against Hyderabad FC and should have been awarded a penalty after having his ankle clipped by Laxmikant Kattimani.