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Player of the season: Lallianzuala Chhangte, reinvigorated teacher of Mumbai City FC

The ISL came to a close on Saturday with ATK Mohun Bagan’s victory over Bengaluru FC in the final, after Mumbai City FC had earlier been crowned the winner of the league shield. Some new foreigners set the league on fire and some existing foreigners continued to show their excellence, but a key feature of this season was the number of Indians who took up the mantle of changing the game, including ESPN India’s Player of the Season:- Lallianzuala Changte.

The winner: Lallianzuala Chhangte

There wasn’t much to deliberate about this. Before the season started, Mumbai City manager Des Buckingham said his staff had worked with Chhangte to secure a better performance in the final third. That work was necessary, because the winger had scored just five goals in the last two ISL seasons. The fruits of that work were already seen in the Durand Cup, where he was the top scorer with seven goals. But in the ISL, Chhangte reached a completely different level.

Over a period of about three months, there was a predictability about the outcome as Chhangte cut left-footed from the right flank, Arjen Robben-style. Some of those goals, against ATKMB and Bengaluru FC at the Mumbai Football Arena, and then against ATKMB away from home, came from a man who had complete confidence in his own ability. That ability had always been there, but this season it exploded on the biggest stage of Indian football. He delighted in the company of greg stewartJorge Pereyra Diaz, and bipin singh and enjoyed his team’s expansive style of play; a style that has brought Mumbai City 56 goals in 22 games this season. Chhangte contributed to 16 of those 56, scoring 10 and assisting six others.

He scored a variety of goals from different distances and angles. In Buckingham’s system, he was the complete inside forward. Whether it was Vishal Kaith’s stunning long-range shot under the bar or a poacher’s perfect finish to start Mumbai City’s comeback at Jamshedpur, Chhangte showed that his speed and skill now had a solid ally in goal-scoring instinct. He knew where to be, when to be, and most importantly, he knew how to get the ball into the back of the net from where he was.

How Des Buckingham inspired the city of Mumbai to a record-breaking season in the ISL

He also scored decisive goals: six of his 10 goals came when Mumbai City were tied or trailing in games. He wasn’t just scoring goals to add to the opposition’s misery (which Mumbai City did very often), he was scoring the goals that mattered, and that’s what has set him apart from other players this season. The regularity with which Chhangte made the difference to the team that finished top of the league cannot be ignored.

The ISL Hero of the League award also went to Chhangte, making him the second Indian after Sunil Chhetri to win the award. Chhangte was sensational this season, for Mumbai City, and as a winger reborn. He won’t be surprised if your eyes are set on repeating all of this next season.

The other contenders: Dimitrios Petratos and Greg Stewart

With 12 goals and 7 assists, Dimitrios Petratos has contributed to 67.9% of ATK Mohun Bagan’s goals this season. He had an unenviable role to play, coming to a team that had lost Roy Krishna and David Williams in the off-season. Petratos stood up and assured that in a season of stoppages for them, Juan Ferrando’s team was still in the fight.

The final, where he scored twice, was another reminder of how clinical he is. He may not be your typical striker, he won’t always play centre-back, he won’t always be in the box, but by putting a ball at Petratos’ feet, he’ll come up with something, as far from goal as he can. be. In the final, it looked like he was placing those penalties into the side netting to the right of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu almost on autopilot. The precision, the poise, the composure… Without Dimi Petratos, ATK Mohun Bagan would not be the ISL champion. It’s really that simple.

Speaking of conjuring up something with the ball at your feet, how can you miss Greg Stewart? The numbers will tell you that his 7 goals and 8 assists this season are a step down from his 10 goals and 10 assists last season, but that doesn’t tell half the story of what he brought to this city team. Mumbai. In an attack that featured our POTS, Bipin Singh and Jorge Pereyra Diaz, Stewart was happy to play the role of facilitator.

Greg Stewart: “I was always meant to be a footballer, I just took a different journey”

They ran hard, they threatened in the box, but around them, there was always Stewart, seeing those passes that no one else in this league gets to see, taking some of the most heavenly touches, just doing that little round on his feet obeying his every instruction. When he comes out, which is the most frequent, it is a delight. He sampled both of his free kicks on the day Mumbai City were crowned winners of the league shield: just gentle strokes of the ball, enough to do a lot of damage. He was pretty impressive all season.