5 Youngsters Who Impressed in the 2023 Durand Cup

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Mohun Bagan SG’s Anwar Ali in action against Mumbai City in Durand Cup

After a month full of excitement and awe-inspiring action, the 2023 Durand Cup reached its conclusion with Mohun Bagan SG trumping against East Bengal to win the prestigious title for the 17th time. From the Indian Super League sides to the Foreign Armed Forces, all the teams gave their best in the pursuit of the distinguished trophy. However, only a few managed to reach the further rounds with MBSG becoming the eventual winner. 

Surprises unfolded at every stage of the tournament as defending champions Bengaluru failed to get through the group stage and East Bengal took down the likes of Mohun Bagan SG in the Kolkata Derby after more than 1600 days. On a similar note, a few team performances also grabbed massive attention from the footballing world such as Mohammedan’s absolute annihilation of ISL outfit, Jamshedpur, and Gokulam Kerala’s maiden derby triumph over Kerala Blasters. 

Nevertheless, amid stellar team efforts, a few individual young talents were also luminous. From Indian Super League clubs to I-League sides, some young stars eminently captivated the spectators with their on-field enthusiasm and prowess. 

Hence, without further delay, let’s take a look at the top five youngsters who impressed the most in the 2023 Durand Cup. 

#5 Parthib Sundar Gogoi (NorthEast United)

Juan Pedro Benali’s NorthEast United stepped into the 2023 Durand Cup with a completely changed squad filled with young talents. The Highlanders’ target man, Wilmar Jordan Gil, who was also their top scorer in the 2023 Indian Super Cup, was initially not a part of the squad. In addition to that, he has been recently signed by the newly promoted ISL side, Punjab. 

Hence, in his absence, Parthib Sundar Gogoi stepped up and took charge to lead the pack for NorthEast United in the Durand Cup. Playing in the first match of the tournament against Shillong Lajong, Gogoi scored his first senior hat-trick and announced his arrival in the top tier of Indian football. He also scored a composed goal against Downtown Heroes in the last match of the group stage. 

Nevertheless, the 20-year-old only got limited minutes in the quarter-final against Indian Army as Ibson Melo was given the chance to start ahead of Gogio but he still managed to leave an impact on the game by creating a couple of chances in the second half. Nevertheless, the fans can expect to see more of Gogoi in the upcoming season of the Indian Super League. 

#4 David Lalhlansanga (Mohammedan)

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 Mohammedan’s David Lalhlansanga against Jamshedpur

David Lalhlansanga made himself known to all the Indian Football fans following his brilliant performance for Mohammedan in the 2023 Durand Cup. The 21-year-old was also the Black Panthers’ most reliable performer as he scored in all the group stage games for the I-League outfit.  Lalhlansanga was the lone goal scorer against Mumbai City in Mohammedan’s season opener. 

In the second match, he helped his side ace over Indian Navy in a close contest at Kishore Bharati Krirangan. Moreover, Lalhlansanga proved that he is a gifted finisher by smashing four goals against Jamshedpur in their last match of the Group Stage. Unfortunately, despite thrashing the Red Miners 6-0, Mohammedan’s campaign was cut short in the Group Stage. 

The 21-year-old won the 2023 Durand Cup Golden Boot. Lalhlansanga had a lot to offer to Mohammedan but he failed to reach his full potential in the tournament because he also had to drop deep into the midfield and contribute to the build-up despite being a full-fledged attacker. The Manipur-based young star would have surely become a top prospect on the radar of many Super League heavyweights after his diligent performance.

#3 Phalguni Singh (NorthEast United)

Another young star who played a major role in NorthEast United’s run towards the semi-finals was Konsam Phalguni Singh. Playing as a central midfielder for the Indian Super League outfit, Phalguni offered great depth to the team in attack as well as defense. He joined the Highlanders from I-League’s Sreenidi Deccan earlier this summer and he has been trying to become a starter in the new team.

Consequently, his performance in the Durand Cup will surely help him rise in the eyes of the coach. In the group stage fixtures, he was prominently used by Juan Pedro Benali as a second-half substitute. However, after he got the chance to start, he never looked back. From helping in the midfield and circulating the play to scoring important goals and giving his side the lead, Phalguni was a complete package for the Highlanders.

Phalguni also scored arguably the most crucial goal in NorthEast United’s 2023 Durand Cup campaign, which came in the second half against the Indian Army in the quarter-final. He again proved that he’s a big-match player by scoring in the semi-final against rampaging East Bengal. Despite the valiant efforts of the youngster, the Highlanders failed to reach the final of the prestigious tournament after they lost against the Red and Yellow Brigade on penalties.

#2 Prabhsukhan Singh Gill (East Bengal)

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Prabhsukhan Singh Gill after the win against NorthEast United in the Durand Cup semi-final

Only two teams have managed to keep two clean sheets in the 2023 Durand Cup, those are East Bengal and Mohun Bagan SG. The Mariners’ Vishal Kaith kept clean sheets against the likes of Bangladesh Army and Punjab while East Bengal’s custodian, Prabhsukhan Singh Gill protected the goal against Mohun Bagan and gave the Red and Yellow Brigade their first Kolkata Derby victory since 2019. 

Gill was signed by East Bengal from Kerala Blasters earlier this summer and since then, he has been a lynchpin in their line-up. The 21-year-old has conceded five goals in the 2023 Durand Cup campaign and he also helped the Red and Yellow Brigade edge over NorthEast United in the semi-final in a penalty shootout (5-3).

The former Kerala Blasters goalkeeper has managed to give reliable performances constantly for East Bengal in his Durand Cup debut campaign for the club. Hence, he will be carrying a ton of pressure on his shoulders as the Red and Yellow Brigade will lock horns against their arch-rival, Mohun Bagan SG in the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, also known as, the Salt Lake Stadium, in Kolkata Derby for the Durand Cup title.

#1 Anwar Ali (Mohun Bagan SG)

Undoubtedly, Mohun Bagan SG’s Anwar Ali has one of the most intriguing as well as tragic stories in the world of football. However, despite all the challenges and odds, the central defender has been constantly improving and giving great performances on club as well as national level. The 23-year-old has recently become a starter for the Indian National team and he’s also a crucial part of Juan Ferrando’s Mohun Bagan SG. 

Also Read: Mohun Bagan Super Giant lifts 17th Durand Cup trophy

Teaming up with Héctor Yuste, the 23-year-old has been exceptional in the defense of the Mariners. Mohun Bagan SG has conceded only two goals in the ongoing edition of the Durand Cup. In addition to that, the Mariners have also managed to keep two clean sheets. Moreover, Ali also scored a brilliant header in the quarter-final against Mumbai City to double the lead for his side. 

The former Goa loanee also shares an excellent bond with Mohun Bagan SG’s new summer signings, Anirudh Thapa and Sahal Abdul Samad, and he has the ability to quickly switch from the role of a central defender to a defensive midfielder. Anwar Ali’s consistency and credibility have earned him a regular spot in Mohun Bagan Super Giant’s starting XI as a central defender.