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Indian Super League

ISL 2018-19: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and set-pieces saved Bengaluru

3:21 PM EST 1/30/19
Gurpreet Bengaluru NorthEast United
Carles Cuadrat's side did not have to be at their best to claim three points against NorthEast United

Bengaluru FC overcame NorthEast United 2-1 in their 13th Indian Super League (ISL) match of the season to regain their top spot in the standings. But Carles Cuadrat's team was far from their best in their first home game in 48 days. 

The Blues needed an injury-time strike from Chencho Gyeltshen to rescue a point at Guwahati in the last meeting against Eelco Schattorie's team and Wednesday's match was not too different in the manner it was played out. 

NorthEast United had 11 shots on target compared to Bengaluru's one and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu had a fine game in between the sticks that denied NorthEast United from taking anything from the tie. And it is not usual for Bengaluru to allow their opponents to have 56 per cent of the possession of the ball. 

Eelco Schattorie's men were dominant and intimidating for most parts. They restricted the hosts really well in and around the penalty box. Sunil Chhetri looked a shadow of the player who turned up for Bengaluru before the Asian Cup break and as Cuadrat mentioned before the game, the continental competition looks to have drained him quite a bit. 

With Chhetri struggling to make the expected impact and Miku out of the first-team picture due to fitness issues, Bengaluru looked toothless. Udanta Singh's pace did trouble the opponents every now and then but it was not enough to break down a competent backline. 

As for NorthEast United, the defeat will be hard to accept due to the sheer number of chances and shots they had. In any competitive league, there is simply no excuse for profligacy.

As the saying goes, teams win games when they play well. But potential champions win games whey don't play as well. For Bengaluru, it was Cuadrat's lessons on set-pieces that bore fruit from an otherwise lacklustre display. 

A brilliant set-piece routine chicaned the entire NorthEast United crowd present inside the box in the 14th minute. The NorthEast defenders who were expecting a direct delivery into the box were deceived by Dimas Delgado who passed it low into the feet of Chhetri on the edge of the box. The skipper found Udanta inside the box and the winger's cross to the centre took a deflection off Federico Gallego, then Mislav Komorski and then hit the net.

Gallego's clever run behind a higgledy-piggledy Bengaluru backline and finish between Gurpreet's legs into the net was neat and tidy. It brought NorthEast level but Bengaluru's set-piece virtuosity yielded them the winner and ultimately, three points. 

Rahul Bheke's throw-in had Juanan waiting at the near post to provide the customary flick towards the far post where, Chencho Gyeltshen, just like he did in Guwahati, quashed Schattorie's hopes of reducing the gap between NorthEast United and the top two teams on the ISL table.

The stuff of champions? Maybe, maybe not. But for the second time this season that Schattorie has seen his team lose despite being on top for the majority of the game.