On Wednesday, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was only playing his third competitive game for Bengaluru FC since his move from Norway’s FC Stabaek. However, his performances have highlighted the manner in which he has adapted to his new team.
On his debut, he kept a clean-sheet against DPR Korea’s 4.25 SC in Bengaluru. Had he not made those crucial saves, the Blues would have found themselves at least three or four goals down. In the away leg, not only did he saved a spot-kick but also denied the opposition on several occasions.
Against Tajikistan’s reigning champions, FC Istiklol, the pressure was mounted by the home side. Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev, who had played against India in the AFC Challenge Cup and Nehru Cup in the past, was the chief orchestrator. He created an opportunity for Russian striker Dmitry Barkov but his header was latched onto by Gurpreet inside the opening 15 minutes.
The home side were guilty of missing another couple of goal scoring chances as Bengaluru FC looked all at sea. Albert Roca opted to play Erik Paartalu as a centre-back in a three-man defence being flanked by two wing-backs. The formation was 5-3-2 with the idea being to contain the attacks from the home side.Hw
However, Barkov found the breakthrough in the 27th minute as he got on the end of Fatkhuloev’s lob to score past Gurpreet. This was the first goal conceded by the former East Bengal custodian in over 200 minutes of action for Bengaluru FC. Mind you, this wasn't a domestic competition but the AFC Cup.
Gurpreet made a stunning save to keep out an effort from 18-year-old midfielder Ehson Panjshanbe as Bengaluru struggled to create a chance of note.
Although Bengaluru enjoyed 63 per cent possession on the night, they only had three shots on target. On the other hand, Istiklol had 23 shots of which nine were on target which highlights the importance of Gurpreet. He made six saves in the game to ensure that Bengaluru did not concede more than one.
The Blues struggled in attack and failed to win a single corner in the entire duration of the game.
It must be noted that for the second leg, Istiklol will see three first team players, namely defender Artem Baranovskyi and midfielders David Mawutor and Amirbek Juraboev back in contention for a start.
Bengaluru will once again need Gurpreet at his best on October18 at the Kanteereva Stadium in order to overturn the deficit from the first leg.
Gurpreet has been the standout performer of this Bengaluru FC side, who shall ply their trade in the Indian Super League (ISL) for the very first time. His presence has been massive for Roca as he single-handedly has kept them in the tie.
Certainly Gurpreet is Bengaluru FC's marquee signing this season.