Having passed 2020 with bitter-sweet memories, we have stepped into the new year with many expectations. Simultaneously, we are entering into the second phase of the tournament, where the players are going to fight it out for every point, bringing us to this edition of 'Studs who stole the Show.'
Halicharan Narzary (Hyderabad FC)
Not a fresh face if you are following Indian football for the past few years, even though Halicharan Narzary has hardly done anything off-late to grab the headlines. Having played the three previous seasons at different clubs, Hyderabad FC secured the services of the speedy winger and the investments have paid off so far. With three strikes so far and adding teeth to their attack with tireless runs down the wing, the Assamese footballer has come of age in the ISL. The Indian international produced a magical display in Hyderabad FC’s last game against Chennaiyin FC, registering a brace en-route to their 4-1 win. Leaving aside goal-scoring duties, Halicharan has taken 23 shots at the goal, hurled in 25 crosses, and completed 316 passes, at an accuracy of 63.92%. With the ‘Nizams’ eyeing a playoff berth, the Indian footballer will undoubtedly find himself in the thick of things.
Bright Enobakhre (SC East Bengal)
There was not even an iota of doubt before making this pick, with the Nigerian having an immediate impact on his arrival in the Indian Super League. SC East Bengal finally broke their duck by registering their first-ever won of the season, by a 3-1 margin over Odisha FC, last Sunday evening. Guess what? It was the first match for Bright Enobakhre in a ‘red and gold’ jersey and he even scored the third goal for his new employers in the 88th minute. If that was a great start to his voyage on Indian shores, the spectacular strike against FC Goa, outfoxing four players in the process, was not a mere feat. The player has the capability to drop down and help his compatriots in the midfield and defence, with his skills an icing on the cake. The transformation of the side following his arrival is clearly visible, making him a man to watch out for in the future days.
Diego Mauricio (Odisha FC)
There was no doubt that the Brazilian was special, having shown sparks of brilliance early on this season, but was derailed for a brief period of time. But, Diego Mauricio re-ignited himself once again with a couple of sensational strikes against Kerala Blasters FC to guide his team to their first-ever win this season. His second goal can arguably be one of the contenders for the ‘goal of the season,’ having tricked several defenders to find the back of the net. What was so inspiring was the way he dropped back, coordinated with the midfielders and built-up the game efficiently. The way ‘Juggernauts’ played yesterday, it was hard to believe that they were winless before the match kicked off, while much of the thrust in their game was instilled by the South American. With five goals in nine matches this season, we are expecting him to increase the tally considerably in the remaining matches.
Liston Colaco (Hyderabad FC)
Literally, the youngster ‘stole the show’ in Hyderabad FC’s encounter against Northeast United FC, even though he was introduced in the 64th minute of the game. The scores were locked at 2-2 when Manolo Marquez decided to inject fresh legs into the field and boy it such an effective move. Apart from instilling pace into the attack, Liston Colaco displayed his individual brilliance by netting an eye-pleasing solo strike in the 85th minute to put the ‘Nizams’ in the driving seat, while the winger inflicted the last nail in the coffin by completing his brace from a counter-attack in the dying minutes of the game. With an equal number of assists to his name earlier on in the season, Colaco is proving to be a complete package every team would crave for. Although it is too early to comment, the Goanese can potentially establish him as the find of the 2020-21 Indian Super League season, even though he played a few games before.
Mourtada Fall (Mumbai City FC)
It’s not surprising that Mumbai City FC have conceded just four goals in nine matches this season - when you have a certain Mourtada Fall guarding the goal. Even though it was unfortunate that a penalty was allowed after the Senegalese committed a legitimate tackle on a Bengaluru FC player. Apart from his defensive duties, the overseas player netted the first goal of the evening in the previous game. With an average of almost 50 passes per game, the solidly-built stopper has maintained a passing accuracy of 83.46%, along with 59 clearances, 17 tackles and 15 interceptions. Fall’s association with Sergio Lobera is not known in India, with the footballer following the footsteps of the Spanish manager to join Mumbai City FC prior to the season. With Lobera’s trust always by his side, the central defender has already bloomed for his new employers and is expected to continue in the same in the remainder of the season.