Erik Paartalu’s 37th-minute strike was the difference as Bengaluru FC made it four wins in four matches against ATK following their 1-0 victory at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Thursday.
The Australian, who scored the winning goal in a similar match when both these sides met at the end of October, once again got between two centre-backs to head home a lovely cross from Kean Lewis and put Bengaluru ahead.
Bengaluru finished the year still unbeaten in the league – the only side yet to lose – on 27 points from 11 games. ATK after ending a similar run of five matches, three of which were barren goalless streaks, remained on sixth with 16 from 12 games.
But this was ATK’s game to win even when Bengaluru had the first opportunity to score with Sunil Chhetri shooting wide a cross from Lewis. Balwant Singh missed four clear-cut chances that began early in the 10th minute when a defensive lapse by Albert Serran set him through on goal but Juanan Gonzalez thwarted the move.
ATK still were the better side despite falling behind to the Paartalu goal in the first half. They could have scored in the very first minute after play restarted when Everton Santos set Balwant clear only for Juanan to kick the ball away.
Balwant also had ATK’s best opportunity of the match and perhaps the best for both sides when Manuel Lanzarote’s free-kick caught Bengaluru napping but with both time and space, Balwant fired over from three-yards out.
10 minutes later, Balwant again found himself through this time from a John Johnson ball across the defence saw him miss the target by inches.
That period of 20 minutes was the closest ATK came and after Balwant was substituted for a young Komal Thatal, the game opened up for both sides.
In the minutes that followed, both Udanta Singh and Santos found themselves in a one-on-one situation but failed to make most of their chances.