The second edition of the Hero Indian Super League witnessed 186 goals, 2062 crosses and 3505 tackles. These figures speak volumes for the performances put in by all eight teams. The players, young and veterans alike, gave their blood, sweat and tears to make it a high-octane edition. Young players like Stiven Mendoza, Antonio German, Mandar Rao Dessai, Thongkhosiem Haokip – but to name a few – caught the eye and reached great heights. The veterans too were noticeable and kept up with the Joneses with one breath-taking performance after another. Here we look at some of these players who defied age.
Leo Moura (FC Goa)
FC Goa’s Man Friday for the entire season, Brazilian midfielder Leo Moura served as the proverbial anchor for the Zico-mentored team as they powered through to the 2015 Hero ISL final. Along with Florent Malouda, Moura topped the assists chart, with three out of his eight assists coming in a single match. The 37-year-old also scored two goals and was inspirational all through. His absence through injury in the second half of the final against Chennaiyin FC proved to be disastrous as the Gaurs conceded two goals in the dying moments to let go of the opportunity of laying their hands on the trophy.
Florent Malouda (Delhi Dynamos FC)
Another player besides Moura to have left a deep impression was former France international Florent Malouda. The 35-year-old brought back his European charm as he set up several opportunities for his attackers. Malouda was the biggest reason behind the Lions reaching their maiden semi-final. Malouda’s impact on the team can be perfectly gauged from the fact that he was directly involved in eight of 19 goals scored by the Roberto Carlos-led team. His inch-perfect passes many a time spared Delhi’s blushes.
Adrian Mutu (FC Pune City)
FC Pune City’s marquee signing of 2015 had a slow start to the season – largely due to injury – but the Romanian striker in the latter half of the league stage repaid the faith through some scintillating performances. The 37-year-old in all scored four goals in 10 matches. Two of those goals were scored off penalty kicks, the most scored by a player in Season 2. The Stallions failed to reach the semis but there was no lack of effort on Mutu’s part.
Bernard Mendy (Chennaiyin FC)
The 34-year-old defender was inspirational in Chennaiyin FC’s resurgence towards the end of the league stage. The Super Machans won four matches in a row to miraculously qualify for the semis and they didn’t look back from there. The Frenchman, besides coming up with 71 clearances, scored two goals. In the final against FC Goa, he stood tall and successfully kept the Gaurs attackers at bay. Holding off the top-scorers of the season was no mean feat and for that the Super Machans had Mendy predominantly to thank.
Borja Fernandez (Atléticode Kolkata)
One of the best defensive midfielders of Hero ISL 2015, 34-year-old Borja Fernandez was instrumental in defending champions Atlético de Kolkata reaching the semis despite having tasted three defeats in a row at one stage. The Spaniard delivered a powerful performance with 22 interceptions and a passing accuracy of 78.96%. Kolkata’s campaign could have been much better if not for an injury to Borja in the first half of their first-leg semi-final against Chennaiyin FC which they lost 3-0.
John Arne Riise (Delhi Dynamos FC)
Marquee player-cum-coach Roberto Carlos’ strategy of moving John Arne Riise from a conventional full-back position to a central defence one paid off greatly as Delhi Dynamos FC reached the semi-finals with little fuss. Apart from his towering physical presence, the 35-year-old Norwegian defender had 29 blocks to his name, the maximum by a player in the league. He also scored a goal besides providing an assist and that greatly highlights his importance to the Lions in a successful campaign.
Cedric Hengbart (NorthEast United FC)
35-year-old Cedric Hengbart’s move from Kerala Blasters FC to NorthEast United FC was quite vital for Venezuelan coach Cesar Farias. The French defender created a good pairing with Andre Bikey in the heart of the defence and amassed 88 clearances – the highest for a Highlander this season. The team failed to reach the semis but the French footballer played his part to a tee.