Defending champions Bengaluru FC registered a narrow 1-0 win over ATK in the first leg of their Hero Indian Super League semi-final clash at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Sunday.
Deshorn Brown's opportunistic strike (31st minute) proved to be the difference in what was a closely-fought first leg battle.
Edu Garcia kicked off an even contest with a shot from outside the box that went wide in the second minute.
Bengaluru soon made their presence felt when Dimas Delgado whipped a dangerous ball into the box. Rahul Bheke rose the highest inside the box but his header flew inches over the crossbar.
ATK's dangerous duo, Roy Krishna and David Williams, combined well to put the ball into the net in the 17th minute. Krishna found his teammate with a well-timed lob in behindthe Blues defence. Williams handled the ball as he brought it down and struck it brilliantly past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, but the goal was eventually disallowed due to the handball.
The hosts continued to put pressure on the ATK defence and their effort bore fruit a minute after the half an hour mark.
Gurpreet's punt from his own half ended up at the feet of Juanan whose shot from inside the box was hit straight at Arindam Bhattacharya. The ATK custodian messed up the save and spilt the ball into the path of Deshorn Brown, who broke the deadlock.
Brown had a chance to double his team's lead when he received the ball outside the box before the break. The striker unleashed a piledriver that flew inches over the bar, much to the relief of Arindam in ATK's goal.
As ATK pressed for an equaliser after the break, Bengaluru tried to make use of the vacant space in the visitors' defence.
Three minutes after the restart, Brown latched on to a ball in behind the defence, cut in from the right and floated a cross towards the left-hand side of the box for Sunil Chhetri, whose header was tipped over by Arindam.
John Johnson nearly unlocked the Blues defence with a wonderful diagonal ball after the hour-mark into the feet of Michael Soosairaj. The Indian winger tried to beat his marker from the left flank, but Suresh Wangjam put in a good block to clear the danger and stop the ATK winger's charge.
ATK struggled to make use of the ball in the final stages of the game and allowed Bengaluru to hit them on the counter.
Arindam made amends for his earlier fumble with a brilliant save to deny Kevaughn Frater's left-footed effort from the edge of the box.
Bengaluru suffered a late blow when Nishu Kumar was sent off for a tug on Krishna. The Fijian striker was brought down outside the box by the full-back and the latter's last-man challenge was punished by the referee.
ATK, however, were unable to force an equaliser and now have to come from behind in the reverse leg in Kolkata next Sunday.
Mohun Bagan beat TRAU 3-1, inch closer to second Hero I-League title
Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan inched closer to a second Hero I-League title with a convincing 3-1 win over debutants Tiddim Road Athletic Union (TRAU) FC in Imphal.
Spaniard Fran Gonzalez (14th minute) scored his 10th goal of the season, converting a penalty to go top of the scoring charts, while compatriot Joseba Beitia (22nd) and Senegalese striker Papa Babacar Diawara (23rd) also found the net for the Mariners.
All four goals came in the first half with Nigerian Joel Sunday (34th) pulling one back for the home side.
This was Mohun Bagan's seventh win on the trot and extended their unbeaten run to 12 games. It also took them to 35 points after 14 games, helping to open up a healthy 13-point advantage over second-placed Punjab FC.
TRAU, with 16 points from 15 games, remain locked in a relegation battle with city rivals Neroca FC and neighbours Aizawl FC.
As has been the norm recently, Mohun Bagan took an early lead when Komron Tursunov wasadjudged to have been tripped inside the box by Dhanchandra Meetei. Gonzalez converted the resultant penalty with consummate ease.
In the 22nd minute, Beitia, doubled the lead with a delightful right-footed curler, which flummoxed Sayan Roy in the TRAU goal.
Just a minute later, Tursunov joined the party when he picked up an assist to put Papa Diawara on the ball inside the TRAU box. Holding off his marker with ease, the former Sevilla striker struck for the eighth time in eight games with a delectable finish across the face of Sayan Roy's goal.
Three down in the first 25 minutes, TRAU fought back admirably and Niger recruit Joseph Mayowa wasbehind at least three clear scoring chances, which the home side created in the next 15 minutes.
They managed to score off one of them, when Mayowa took advantage of an error to surge ahead.
Once inside the box, Mayowa got past Fran Morante and also keeper Sankar Roy. The ball deflected off Morante's heels and looped up for Joel Sunday, who put it inside an empty net for his first goal of the season.
Mohun Bagan began the second half with a clear intention of sitting back and holding on to their two-goal advantage.
The hosts though tried their best. Naocha had a shot in the 68th which was easily collected by Sankar and later in the game, he also got a header on target. Deepak Devrani rose to connect a header towards the goal, but they were all too easy for the Mohun Bagan custodian to collect.
Tursunov was given the marching order for a second booking with the clock a minute shy of the 70-minute mark as the visitors were forced to play out the last 20 minutes with 10 men.
Nothing, however, changed TRAU's fortunes as Mohun Bagan held on.