Gritty ATK undone on either side of half-time by Bengaluru FC
Well might Carles Cuadrat have been thinking of what to tell his boys at half-time --- after all, Bengaluru FC were on the brink of a somewhat unusual situation of going into the break chasing the game --- when Miku won a free-kick deep in stoppage time. Miku’s finish to the Dimas Delgado tap swung past Manuel Lanzarote in the ATK ‘wall’ and entered the top corner of Arindam Bhattacharja’s goal.
It cancelled Komal Thatal’s quality finish in the 15th minute and perhaps meant it was ATK coach Steve Coppell whose half-time talk had to change. Exactly what that goal did to ATK could be gauged by the fact that Bengaluru FC went ahead less than a minute into the second half through Erik Paartalu’s powerful side-volley. ATK hadn’t switched on after doing almost everything right in the first half --- no one challenged Paartalu when Balwant Singh’s clearance fell kindly for him, also following a free-kick --- and a team Coppell said could be a yardstick to measure one’s worth wouldn’t let such a slip go unpunished.
ATK nearly hit back immediately but Thatal’s screamer, again after a free-kick, missed the mark by inches. They had lost Kalu Uche in the 41st minute; the Nigerian striker being cynically hacked by Albert Serran in ATK’s half. That meant lesser workload for Serran and Juanan at the heart of the Bengaluru FC defence. Neither though could do much when Thatal latched on to Eduardo Santos’ pass, made the most of Nishu Kumar ball-watching by going around the right-back and compensated for a poor first touch with a superb left-foot finish.
As a team ATK defended the early lead well. Full backs Aiborlang Khongjee and Ricky Lallawmawma kept Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh quiet. John Johnson and Vieira were on Miku and that meant Dimas Delgado’s deliveries weren’t going to places Benagluru FC would have wanted them to.
Barring an early Miku header that was too close to Bhattacharja, Bengaluru FC got no other chance till Boithang Haokip hit the upright off their first corner-kick, which came in second-half stoppage time. ATK got three corner-kicks and Vieira headed one of them into the upright.
Yet, it is Bengaluru FC who enjoy a 3-0 record against ATK and move to third on 10 points from four games. After their third home loss, following two wins and a draw, ATK stay fifth on seven points from six games.