Bengaluru FC ride Chhetri’s winner to register a 1-0 win and go top of the Indian Super League (ISL) points table … writes Debayan Mukherjee
Bengaluru FC rode Sunil Chhetri’s first-half strike to register a 1-0 win and go top of the Indian Super League (ISL) points table, thus ending ATK’s three-game unbeaten run at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Sunday.
Chhetri (40th) brought up his fifth goal of the campaign to help the ISL first-timers record their second win on the bounce. They lost the previous two home games against Chennaiyin FC and Jamshedpur FC before bouncing back with a 3-1 verdict against Kerala Blasters away.
Bengaluru could have been three goals to the good had Erik Paartalu and substitute Braulio Nobrega’s shots not found the woodwork.
Bengaluru, courtesy the result, now have 18 points from nine games, while ATK remain seventh with nine in their kitty from eight outings.
The hosts remained unchanged from their 3-1 victory over Kerala in the last game while ATK had three former Bengaluru players in their starting XI in the form of Keegan Pereira, Shankar Sampingraj and Robin Singh.
Surprisingly, Ryan Taylor and Hitesh Sharma were relegated to the bench.
The opening exchanges of the game saw a flurry of set pieces for both teams. It was a scrappy affair for the first quarter before Zequinha crossed for Robin in the 26th minute after Rahul Bheke gave the ball away cheaply.
But the former Bengaluru man had his back towards goal and tried to work the ball away with his head. It did not find Keane who was running in another direction.
Three minutes into the half-hour mark, Bengaluru’s Edu Garcia swung in a free kick which found Paartalu whose header came off the post for Bheke who failed to make the most of the rebound as but ATK defenders scrambled the ball away.
Just as the hosts looked good to take the lead, Chhetri ruffled the net with a brilliant strike from just outside the box. The visitors lost possession in midfield with Conor Thomas gifting a pass to the India captain who took a first touch before driving home past a diving Debjit Majumdar in goal.
Trying to change the fortunes, ATK coach Teddy Sheringham threw in Taylor who has been very impressive since joining the club, in place of Zequinha while Sampingraj made way for Bipin Singh.
Keane tried to draw level with a low shot but home keeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu saved well.
At the other end, substitute Nobrega — replaced Miku in the 76th minute — found the post between him and goal after dribbling past a sleepy ATK rearguard. The rebound was cleared to safety by Keegan Pereira.