AFC Cup: Bengaluru FC seals semis berth

Bengaluru FC became the third Indian club to qualify for the semifinals of the AFC Cup with a 1-0 aggregate win over Tampines Rovers of Singapore after the second leg ended goalless.

Bengaluru FC (white) and Tampines Rovers in action in the AFC Cup quarterfinal second leg.   -  the-afc.com

I-League champion Bengaluru FC today booked its maiden semifinal berth in the AFC Cup football tournament with a 1-0 aggregate win over Tampines Rovers of Singapore after the second leg of the quarterfinal tie ended in a goalless draw here.

Bengaluru had beaten Tampines 1-0 in the first leg in Bangalore last week, courtesy C K Vineeth’s strike.

Bengaluru thus became only the third side from India to have qualified for the semifinals of the AFC Cup, the continent’s second tier club competition. Dempo and East Bengal have achieved the feat earlier in 2008 and 2013 respectively.

Last year, Bengaluru had bowed out of the tournament at the Round of 16 stage.

For Bengaluru coach Alberto Roca, a former assistant manager of FC Barcelona, it has been a fairytale start in his stint as this was his second competitive match in charge of the side. It was a disciplined tactical performance deployed by Roca that saw Bengaluru hold out against Tampines at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Tampines went for the jugular from the start as it sought to overturn a one-goal first leg deficit. Despite having a lion’s share of possessions and shots, it found Arminder Singh unbeatable in goal as the Bengaluru custodian produced a fine showing between the posts.

After losing defender Shakir Hamzah to a suspected cheekbone fracture midway through the second half, Tampines rallied in its attempt to at least force extra time but was unable to find a way through the Bengaluru defence in the end.

Led by India star Sunil Chhetri, Bengaluru soaked a wave of attacks from Tampines in the first session dominated by the home side.

Bengaluru did better in the second half and created a few scoring chances while its defence remained rock solid to thwart the Tampines attack led by former Aesenal and LIverpool player Jermaine Pennant.

Bengaluru has now set up a rematch against defending champion Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia in the semifinals.

The two sides were clubbed in the same group in the group stage. Bengaluru had lost both the home and away matches against the Malaysian side in the group stage.