Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh were the two prized assets Bengaluru FC chose to retain ahead of the season. In the club's first match, the duo proved the difference as BFC sliced through Democratic People's Republic of Korea's 4.25 SC 3-0 in the first leg of the AFC Cup inter-zonal play-off semifinal at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Wednesday.
It didn't matter that BFC’s was a new-look team. Neither did the fact that almost half the match was played under a relentless downpour. On the night the 2016 Cup finalist was as tightly wound as a drum as it put itself in pole position to advance with the second leg scheduled for September 13 in Pyongyang.
Chhetri starred with a goal and an assist and Udanta earned a penalty and scored a goal of his own before Lenny Rodrigues rounded it off.
BFC enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession early on but not much came of it. Nearly 20 minutes had passed before the first threat on goal emerged when Antonio Dovale's free-kick found Chhetri but latter's shot was blocked.
The spot kick from which BFC went ahead was something 4.25 SC could have avoided. Udanta, sent through on goal, played for the penalty and the goalie Ri Kang, unable to gauge Udanta's pace, obliged with a lunge. He didn't have even a whiff of a chance to make amends as Chhetri executed a delightful Panenka.
With minutes left for the break, the skipper produced another moment of brilliance when he beat the offside trap to connect with a glorious long ball from Erik Paartalu and attempted an imperious chip only for the goalkeeper to tip it away.
Udanta doubles lead
There was a spring in the DPRK side's step after AFC Cup top-scorer Kim Yu Song – who didn't start owing to a stiff back – was introduced. He had a fine shot saved by Gurpreet Sandhu and saw chipped pass towards captain An Il Bom go begging.
Yet, in the 51st minute, BFC doubled its advantage after Udanta stole a pass meant for the left-back, sprinted towards the goal and slotted it in. The rest of the match was played under heavy rain with puddles of water all over the pitch ensuring that build-up play was almost impossible.
Rodrigues, though, seemed unperturbed as he launched a vicious shot from 30 yards which drew an excellent save from Kang. He wouldn't leave without his reward as he finished off a fine cross from Chhetri at the far post.
The result: Bengaluru FC 3 (Chhetri 33, Udanta 51, Rodrigues 78) bt 4.25 SC 0.
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