quarta-feira, 19 de outubro de 2016
AFC Cup Semi-Final: Asian glory for Bengaluru
Bengaluru FC players celebrate after a goal against Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia in their AFC Cup semi-final second leg at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Wednesday. The hosts won 3-1 and 4-2 on aggregate. (Photo: PTI )
Over 21,000 waited with bated breath. Waiting for the most significant whistle of the match, the most significant of Bengaluru FC’s three-year-history and perhaps the most significant whistle in the history of Indian club football.
The shrill ‘peep’ was drowned in a crescendo of noise. BFC reached the promised land!
The I-League champions became the first Indian club to reach the AFC Cup final as they mauled defending champions Johor Darul Ta’zim 3-1, and 4-2 on aggregate at Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Wednesday.
They will now face Air Force Club of Iraq in the final in Doha on November 5.
Cometh the moment, cometh the man! Sunil Chhetri capped a magnificent display with two goals on either side of the break to inspire a comeback after the hosts went down to a Safiq Rahim goal early in the game before Juan Antonio made the game safe late in the second half.
The home side dominated possession and pressed from the front to win the ball high up the field and put Johor under pressure right from the get go. With synchronised pressing as their mantra, BFC created several half chances before Johor struck the sucker punch.
Eleven minutes and having barely had a kick, Johor found themselves in front as Safee Sali and Rahim combined well on the counter. The striker backheeled to find Rahim who returned the favour to put Sali behind the defence.
With just the keeper to beat, the Malaysian fired straight at Amrinder who uncharacteristically flap-ped at the effort allowing Rahim, who had continued his run unmarked, to nod the ball in to put Johor 2-1 up on aggregate.
The goal, devastating as it felt around the stadium, showed another side of the Steelmen as they showed character and kept at it, undeterred.
Albert Roca’s men created bundles of chances with their set-pieces, Eugeneson Lyngdoh showing his ability with the dead ball.
The crowd and players went up in the 22nd minute as Brazilian defender Marcos Antonio handled the ball in the penalty box, only for the referee to be unimpressed.
The I-League champions deservedly got their equaliser four minutes before half time with Chhetri, who had earlier hit the bar, rising between his markers to glance home Lyngdoh’s whipped corner.
The second half continued in the same vein as BFC made the defending champions chase shadows and their reward arrived in the 67th minute when Vineeth turned his man and picked out Chhetri on the left.
The captain, after a slight misstep, scored perhaps with a curler from outside the box that sailed into the top corner before turning to bask in the adulation of the fans.
BFC hammered the nail in Johor’s coffin in the 76th minute when Lyngdoh, after receiving a caution for time wasting, claimed his second assist of the game by finding a free Juanan to glance home the third with his free-kick.