There was finally some cheer in the Bengaluru FC camp as it battled past ATK 1-0 in the first leg of the Indian Super League semifinal at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Sunday.
Deshorn Brown’s first-half strike secured the reigning champion a morale-boosting win that puts it in the ascendancy going into the second leg in Kolkata next Sunday.
The home side played the last five odd minutes with 10 men after Nishu Kumar was sent off for denying Roy Krishna a scoring opportunity near the edge of the area. ATK pinned its hopes on the resulting freekick for the crucial away goal. But despite a retake, ATK couldn’t score, as BFC’s excellent defensive co-ordination came to the fore.
Earlier in the evening, the first chance of the match fell to BFC in the seventh minute when Rahul Bheke rose to meet Dimas Delgado’s corner but headed it over the bar. But for that, BFC pegged itself deep with ATK doing all the pressing. Just after the quarter-hour mark, ATK thought it had gone ahead when David Williams, after collecting the ball from Krishna on the right flank, drove it into the net, only to be called for a handball.
The host’s first phase of sustained pressure came around 30 minutes and it brought three consecutive corners. While not much came off them, BFC struck immediately after, when Brown bundled the ball in from close range after ATK goalie Arindam Bhattacharja made a mess of a weak shot from central defender Juanan.
At the break, in an attacking move, Cuadrat brought on striker Kevaughn Frater for defender Albert Serran and the Jamaican proved the liveliest of the lot. On 75 minutes, he unleashed a superb left-footer from 30 yards out which was brilliantly saved by Arindam. He then released Paartalu on the right wing but the latter’s cut-back wasn’t capitalised on by Chhetri.
Much of ATK’s attack was restricted to the left side of the midfield, but Michael Soosairaj had a largely forgettable outing there. ATK’s hopes rose when Williams went on a marauding box-to-box run that brought the free-kick from a dangerous position. But BFC ensured it wouldn't be denied the victory.
The result: Bengaluru FC 1 (Brown 31') bt ATK 0.
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