ISL 2020-21 semi-finals: Indian youngsters are mainly given a bench-warmer’s role in the Indians Super League with only a few able to make the cut and feature in the playing XI. ISL 2021 hasn’t been any different but some have already managed to impress.
With all clubs made to include a development player (U-22) in the Starting XI, this time they got game time. In previous occasions, when fielding a U-22 player was mandatory, clubs gave them mere minutes before subbing them off. This time though, youngsters have been lucky. The foreign coaches have given them game time.
The players have also repaid the faith. If Ishan Pandita’s late goals off the bench have helped FC Goa move to the semifinals, Sumit Rathi has impressed at ATK Mohun Bagan. Now, some of them will represent their teams in the semifinals, starting March 5. InsideSport has picked Top 5 youngsters to watch out for in the semifinal clashes.
ISL 2020-21 semi-finals – Lalengmawia (NorthEast United FC): The 20-year-old midfielder has earned the most minutes in the ISL 2020-21 after Hyderabad FC’s Akash Mishra. A constant presence in NorthEast United midfield, Lalengmawia has played 1668 minutes in 20 matches, scoring a goal. But it’s his passing that has impressed the most. With 75.38% passing accuracy, he is one of the reasons for NEUFC’s rise in form.
ISL 2020-21 semi-finals – Mohamad Rakip (Mumbai City FC): Although he has got only 365 minutes in eight matches, Mohamad Rakip has been one of the stand-out players among youngsters in the league. Deployed as a right-back initially in the first half of the league, he soon fell out of favour. But with the semifinals around the corner, Sergio Lobera could use him.
ISL 2020-21 semi-finals – Sumit Rathi (ATKMB): The 19-year-old had an amazing season last year, winning the ISL title with ATK. This season, although he hasn’t got many minutes under his belt, he has done his job off the bench whenever called upon by Antonio Lopez Habas. He has put up a strong show in the defence and with the semifinals coming up, he could be a great asset off the bench.
ISL 2020-21 semi-finals – Amey Ranawade (Mumbai City FC): It was a competition between Amey and Rakip and the former won the battle in the latter half of the season with Lobera giving the full-back valuable game time. While he has still a lot of work to do to establish himself as a defender, his attacking work rate is what impressed Lobera.
ISL 2020-21 semi-finals – Ishan Pandita (FC Goa): The former CD Leganes youth player has played only 56 minutes in nine matches for FC Goa but he has more to show than any other youngsters in the league. With four crucial goals off the bench, he is one reason why Goa made it to the semifinals. His impressive super-sub show also earned him a call-up to the national team for the upcoming international friendlies against Oman and the UAE. With semifinals to be played over two legs and a knock-out format, Pandita could add more goals to his tally.