AFC Cup: Johor Darul Ta'zim beats Bengaluru FC

While BFC deserves credit for making the defending champion Johor Darul Ta'zim, a superior opponent, sweat, its attacking game lacked enterprise and endeavour.

Azammuddin Bin Mohad Akil (Azammuddin) of Jojor Darul Ta'zim and Seiminlen Doungel of Bengaluru FC in action during the Match between Bengaluru FC fight for possession.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Bengaluru FC sank to an uninspiring 1-0 defeat at the hands of Johor Darul Ta'zim in its Group H AFC Cup game at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Wednesday.

While BFC deserves credit for making the defending champion, a superior opponent, sweat, its attacking game lacked enterprise and endeavour. Five minutes from time, Alwyn George fired into the side netting from close range with the Johor keeper on the floor, but that was as close as BFC came. The game's only goal came early in the second half, when Safiq bin Rahim found the net with a delightful free-kick.

Ashley Westwood chose to leave Sunil Chhetri, Rino Anto and Kim Song Yong on the bench, wary of risking more injury to an already suffering squad. Of the three, only Anto would play any part. In a departure from the norm, BFC fielded a five-man defence — for all of Westwood's assertions to the contrary, it seemed that the home side would be satisfied with a draw. Straight after kick-off, Udanta Singh floated in a dangerous cross from the right, but it was BFC's only highlight during a largely dull half, with few clear cut chances for both the sides.

The ball was mostly stuck in midfield, as the travelling coach Roberto Gomez cut an increasingly frustrated figure on the touchline. In the last five minutes of the half, Johor pressed forward with a sudden burst of intensity. Juan Lucero rolled two sharp crosses from the right into the path of his fellow-Argentine Pereyra Diaz. The latter stabbed the first attempt wide and saw the second blocked.

The deadlock was broken 10 minutes after the interval. A foul on Lucero by Keegan Pereira earned Johor a free kick just on the edge of the area. The captain Safiq bin Rahim, also the skipper of the Malaysian national team, curled a super, thumping shot into the far corner. Minutes earlier, John Johnson had headed a free-kick just over the bar, but there was little else for BFC to cheer about. The Bengaluru side will next travel to Ayeyawady United on March 16.