Bengaluru FC loses to Al Wehdat 2-1

I-League title holder Bengaluru FC’s quest for qualification in the prestigious AFC Champions failed at the first hurdle as it lost 2-1 to Al Wehdat in its Preliminary Qualifying Stage two tie.


Sunil Chhetri scored the only goal for Bengaluru FC.   -  K. Murali Kumar (File Photo)

I-League title holder Bengaluru FC’s quest for qualification in the prestigious AFC Champions failed at the first hurdle as it lost 2-1 to a dominant Al Wehdat of Jordan in its Preliminary Qualifying Stage two tie here.

Both sides were goalless at half time but Palestinian winger Ahmed Maher (48th) put the Jordan giant in the lead three minutes after resumption when his volley from just inside the box hit the roof of the net. Bengaluru’s Sena Ralte then gave away a 65th minute penalty which Baha Faisal converted to extend Al Wehdat’s lead to 2-0 and send the home fans at the King Abdullah II International Stadium into a delirium last night.

Bengaluru skipper Sunil Chhetri reduced the deficit with a strike from a corner in the 68th minute, but it was a case of too little too late for the Indian side, which will now play in Group E of the AFC Cup. Al Wehdat will travel to Abu Dhabi to take on Al Wahda of UAE at the Al Nahyan Stadium on February 7 for a place in Group D of the AFC Champions League.

Bengaluru FC now has the possibility of facing another Indian side in Mohun Bagan at the group stage of the AFC Cup. It is now placed in Group E alongside Maziya (Maldives), Abahani Limited (Bangladesh) and one of the four teams out of Timpu (Bhutan), Valencia (Maldives), Mohun Bagan (India) and Colombo FC (Sri Lanka). These four clubs are competing in a qualifying round of the AFC Cup.

Bengaluru FC struggled throughout the match against Al Wehdat and the Jordanian side would have won with a much bigger margin had it not wasted the chances that came its way. Albert Roca’s side struggled to win possession and when it did, it couldn’t create any goal scoring opportunities. Lenny Rodrigues was ineffective and seasoned campaigner Hassan Fattah, who has played more than 80 international matches for Jordan, dictated play at the middle of the park.

The first 15 minutes saw both sides testing each other and soon Chhetri had an opportunity to have a go at the Al Wehdat goal but his header was easily saved by Tamer Hamed. That was the only chance Bengaluru had in the first half and the three-pronged attack of Chhetri, C. K. Vineeth and Udanta Singh could not do much to break down the opposition defence.

One-way traffic

Thereafter, it was a case of one way traffic with the home team creating several chances. From a free-kick in the 15th minute by Abu Amara, Tareq Zeyad saw his header go over the bar. Hassan Fattah and Rajaei Fadel had a couple of shots which saw Bengaluru goalkeeper Amrinder Singh being called into action.

The home team got the breakthrough minutes after halftime. Amara’s cross was cleared by Bengaluru defender Juanan but only as far as Maher, who scored with his second touch. Just before the hour mark, Fattah’s cross from the right saw Harmanjot Khabra napping and Maher’s volleyed effort was parried away for a corner by Amrinder in order to ensure that the scoreline remained at 1-0.

Al Wehdat doubled its lead when Sena Ralte pushed Faisal in an off-the-ball incident and Baha Faisal dispatched the resultant spot kick to the Bengaluru net, although Amrinder had guessed it right. Bengaluru was handed a lifeline when Chhetri headed home from a Cameron Watson corner as the Jordanian team’s defence failed to mark the India striker.

Bengaluru still had a try to restore parity in the 82nd minute but Vineeth shot over the bar from inside the box off an Udanta Singh cross from the right.

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