Bengaluru, January 7: A first-half stunner by Sunil Chhetri handed Bengaluru FC a 1-0 win over ATK in their Indian Super League match at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Sunday (January 7).
In what was a mini reunion between familiar faces on both sides, the hosts prevailed through their captain's effort five minutes before the break.
Chhetri pounced on a bad back-pass by ATK's Conor Thomas and finding space ahead of him, went for goal from 25 yards out. His curling right-footer gave no chance for a diving Debjit Majumder.
The result moved BFC to the top of the ISL standings with 18 points from nine games, one more than Chennaiyin FC, who were held 2-2 by bottom-placed Delhi Dynamos.
BFC had control of the proceedings for a large part of the game. They were a compact unit at the back and committed little errors near the box, allowing no space for the ATK strikers Robbie Keane and Robin Singh to sneak one in.
ATK defenders had a tough day at office and Bengaluru FC were unlucky to see couple of their shots kiss the post and roll away.
In the 33rd minute especially, Erik Paartalu's header from the left of the box off Edu Garcia's take took an agonising touch from the right post. Though Rahul Bheke got a shot in from the rebound, it was cleared away by former BFC midfielder Shankar Sampingiraj.
Substitute Braulio Nobrega had his effort from the left of the box bounce off the right post in the 79th minute. Off the resulting corner, Paartalu's testing header to the centre of the net was kept out by a diving Debjit Majumder. Two minutes later, Nobrega couldn't tap in the rebound when Majumder blocked a shot from point-blank range by Edu Garcia.
.@jfigueras21 with a heroic clearance here for @WorldATK, after @Edu_Garcia90 saw his shot saved!— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) January 7, 2018
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The game also had its own set of refereeing mistakes. In the 23rd minute, BFC's calls for a penalty were snubbed by referee Tejas Nagvenkar. Udanta Singh was brought down at the right side of the box by Keegan Pereira, another former BFC defender. Replays clearly showed Pereira clearly getting the cleats of the 22-year-old winger.
Things could have been different if not for a wrong link-up in the 26th minute. Robin, also a former BFC man, came in the middle of a cross to Keane from midfielder Jose dos Santos (Zequinha). Though Robin headed the ball down and set it up for Rupert Nongrum, the latter's left-footed shot was blocked by Juanan Gonzalez. Keane was visibly upset as he was rushing in behind Robin to pump in the volley.
ATK upped the ante in the second half in search of an equaliser. Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was called into action thrice between the 50th and 60th minutes and it was all because of the danger man Keane. First, Prabir Das played a flat cross hoping to find Keane, which called for an interception just beyond the eight-yard mark. Seconds later, Gurpreet charged out of the box to prevent a long ball from reaching Keane and lastly, he dived to his right to glove away a shot by Keane from the edge of the box.
But to the delight of the home fans, which was a majority of the 17,942 that attended the game, Keane was unable to weave his magic and BFC secured the three points with no late drama.
Bengaluru next travel to Delhi to face the Dynamos at 5.30 pm on Sunday, January 14.