ATK Mohun Bagan on Tuesday beat struggling Bengaluru FC 2-0 to take themselves just a point adrift of leaders Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League table as the battle for the AFC Champions League slot opened up.
The winner of the ISL league phase — with four rounds left to play — will get an automatic qualification in the AFC Champions League next season.
In a first for ATK Mohun Bagan this season, two first-half goals signalled the downfall for a beleaguered Bengaluru FC, who were punished for their defensive mistakes.
Roy Krishna (37th) beat Gurpreet Singh Sandhu from the spot before Marcelinho (44th) put the game to rest with a freekick of the highest order.
The Mariners now stand second with 33 points from 16 games while Bengaluru FC remains sixth with 19 points, four points adrift of the top-four pack with one less game to play.
It was Bengaluru who looked more confident with the ball in the initial stages but ATKMB got things under control as they pressed aggressively, forcing BFC into mistakes.
They were fierce with their attacks and Marcelinho forced an early save from Sandhu.
While Bengaluru had more possession, ATKMB attacked better and had more shots on goal. Sandhu was constantly called upon. He came up with a fine save, getting a hand to Carl McHugh’s fierce shot which should have been on the back of the net.
After a series of raids, ATKMB were awarded a penalty when Pratik Chaudhari brought down Krishna in the penalty box after the Fijian was set through on goal by Marcelinho. Krishna sent the keeper in the wrong direction to put his side ahead.
The Kolkata side went two goals ahead just before the break. Once again, BFC conceded from a set-piece. Harmanjot Khabra committed a foul on David Williams just outside the box and Marcelinho’s freekick snuck past Sandhu, his second goal in three games.
BFC continued to dominate possession but lacked attempts on goal. ATKMB continued to find the right time to pounce on opportunities. Sandesh Jhingan tried a powerful strike which Sandhu once again kept out. The custodian prevented BFC from losing by a bigger margin.
Manvir Singh had a chance when he was set through on the right flank. But with options in the box, Manvir tried for glory only for Sandhu to make a fine save.
Bengaluru had to wait until the 87th minute for their first real chance. Sunil Chhetri managed to get past Jhingan and struck a low shot at goal but Arindam Bhattacharja dived to his right to deny the BFC skipper.