ISL: Bengaluru beat ATK 1-0 in the first leg of the semifinal

BENGALURU: Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu added another clean sheet to his collection as defending champions Bengaluru FC (BFC) beat ATK 1-0 in the first leg of the second Indian Super League ( ISL ) semifinal here on Sunday.

It was another superb show by the BFC defense, marshalled by Juanan, that kept the formidable ATK forwards Roy Krishna and David Williams quiet. The visitors even had the numerical advantage for the last 10 minutes as Nishu Kumar was shown the red for a foul on Krishna when the Kiwi player was darting towards the goal in the 84th minute.

In the end, ATK coach Antonio Habas walked away frustrated that his team couldn’t find the away goal ahead of next Sunday’s return leg in Kolkata. But BFC will now be without Nishu in the second leg. The all-important goal came just after the hour mark when Jamaican Deshorn Brown came up with a clinical finish to beat ATK custodian Arindam Bhattacharja.

The second half was all about BFC locking up their goal, which they did with confidence by putting more men behind. ATK managed just eight shots, five of them by Edu Garcia, and had just one shot from Garcia on target. BFC, meanwhile, came up with dangerous counters in the second half that stretched the ATK defense. In the 76th minute, substitute Kevaughn Frater unleashed a powerful left-footer that was superbly tipped away by the ’keeper Bhattacharja.

The action-packed first half saw ATK taking the attack to the BFC defense and almost cracking it. But it was the hosts who took the lead through a goal that was masterminded by their skipper Sunil Chhetri.

After forcing back-to-back corners, which yielded nothing, Chhetri sent the ball back to ’keeper Gurpreet, who had advanced near the center circle. Sandhu quickly relayed the ball back to his skipper who now drilled the ball into the box. Defend Juanan, who had come up for the corner, sent in a shot which ATK ’keeper Bhattacharja only managed to block. The rebound fell nicely onto the feet of striker Brown, who made no mistake from close range in the 31st minute for a deafening roar of approval from the packed stands.

ATK responded with a wave of attacks with Garcia, a former BFC man, pulling the strings. First, his shot off a free-kick went just wide in the 34th minute. Two minutes later, Garcia drove in dangerously. He got past Chhetri and was powering into the box when Juanan, who got a yellow, brought him down and conceded a free kick.

Earlier, ATK thought they had the lead in the 17th minute when David Williams netted but referee Taqi Jahari disallowed the goal for offside even as the assistant referee’s flag stayed down.

BFC coach Carles Cuadrat left Udanta Singh and Ashique Kurunian on the bench and gave Suresh Wangjam a start for his impressive AFC Cup show. The player was perfect when his XI won a victory that raises morale.