It really was a game of fine margins at the Sree Kanteerva as league leaders Bengaluru FC edged past a gallant, yet wasteful ATK with a 1-0 win. The man of the match, Erik Paartalu, provided Bengaluru with that edge which now puts them six points clear at the top of the Indian Super League (ISL) table after 11 games.
ATK did create a lot of goalscoring opportunities and could probably have collected all three points on any other day but it just wasn’t meant to be.
Balwant Singh and Everton Santos failed to convert one-on-one chances and the former also missed a sitter from three yards out following a Manuel Lanzarote free-kick.
With Emiliano Alfaro and Kalu Uche sidelined due to injury, the visitors were finding it hard to do justice to the chances created. On a day when the Bengaluru centre-backs, Juanan and Albert Serran, were not at their best, Balwant and Everton should have converted the chances they got.
It would have been frustrating for Steve Coppell to see his frontmen create opportunities with brilliant runs in behind the defence but come up short when it came to putting the ball in the net.
At the other end, without the services of Miku, Bengaluru’s powerhouse seems to have shifted to the midfield double pivot of Erik Paartalu and Dimas Delgado. Their performance against ATK served as great evidence to how the duo has been crucial to Bengaluru’s unbeaten run.
The best use of time and space is extremely crucial in football and this duo has surpassed their counterparts in this aspect.
In the 37th minute, Kean Lewis delivered a cross to the centre of the ATK box and Paartalu glanced it home expertly. It’s a bit unusual to find the Australian that high on the pitch in a non-set piece situation but Paartalu was spot on with his timing of the run.
Minutes later, the midfielder was at the other end, heading away a dangerous cross from Ankit Mukherjee. The hosts were able to make 16 interceptions in the game and Paartalu’s presence has been a major factor behind this, given how he somehow ends up in the right place at the right time.
The 32-year-old has been the linchpin of this midfield and has established himself as one of the best in the league at what he does.
On the other hand, Dimas managed to find Sunil Chhetri and Kean Lewis through defence-splitting passes on more than one occasion though the chances were not taken. The Spaniard’s understanding and exploitation of space offers Bengaluru an advantage over any other midfield in the league. After lengthy spells of possession in the neutral third, its Dimas’s vertical passes that threatened the opposition backline.
Paartalu’s sense of timing and Dimas’s understanding of space has been extremely crucial to Bengaluru’s unbeaten run.