Bengaluru FC creates history after reaching AFC Cup final

Bengaluru FC became the first Indian club to reach the AFC Cup final after beating defending champion Johor Darul Ta'zim of Malaysia 3-1 on the night and 4-2 on aggregate.

Bengaluru FC captain Sunil Chhetri celebrates with team members after scoring in the AFC Cup semifinal against Johor Darul Ta’zim in Bengaluru.   -  K. Murali Kumar

It was the promised land. And Bengaluru FC stepped into it emphatically by beating Johor Darul Ta’zim 3-1 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Wednesday to become the first Indian club ever to enter the final of the AFC Cup.

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A brace from the outstanding Sunil Chettri and a goal from Spaniard Juan Gonzalez completed a come-from-behind win which is certain to rank among the very best the club has had in three-year-long existence. It will meet Iraq’s Air Force Club in the final on November 5 in Doha, Qatar.

Prior to the match, coach Albert Roca had asked his side to be brave and on the day they showed a level of bravery which should thrill the coach. In spite of having an away goal advantage, BFC was the aggressor. The first goal for Johor in the 11th minute – which negated BFC’s advantage – was hence completely against the wind.

A counter-attack started by Kunalan Subramaniam from the midfield ended with the captain Safiq Rahim heading the ball into the net. That BFC let the Johor through on goal without any resistance would irk Roca. Goalie Amrinder too didn’t cover himself in glory – in trying to push ball over the bar, he just pushed it closer to the goal mouth.

But it did nothing to slow the home side down. On 18 minutes, Rino Anto had a shot punched away by the Johor goalie Mohd Tarimi. Ten minutes later Chhetri hit the bar from a move which started with a fine corner from Eugeneson Lyndoh, went back and forth across the goal before falling to Chhetri.

The equaliser came with a third such opportunity in the 40th minute when Chhetri rose majestically to head the ball across into the top left corner off another fine ball from Eugeneson.

The second half played out similarly with Johor continuing to sit back. On the few occasions it had the ball, it gave it away immediately. From one such situation, C.K. Vineeth found himself with the ball high up the pitch and squared it to Chhetri. After having appeared to mis-control it a bit, Chhetri cut in from the left to unleash a screamer from just outside the penalty box to put Bengaluru ahead.

The I-league champion had one foot in the final. Centre-back Juan, on 76 minutes, dragged the other across the line when he scored off a free-kick from Eugeneson.

Result: Bengaluru FC 3 (Chhetri 40, 67, Juan 76) bt Johor Darul Ta’zim 1 (Safiq Rahim 11).

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