Bengaluru FC makes it to AFC Cup Inter-Zonal final

Bengaluru FC was held to a goalless draw by North Korean side 4.25 SC in the second leg of their AFC Cup Inter-Zonal semifinal.

Bengaluru FC striker Udanta Singh in action against 4.25 SC at the May Day Stadium, in Pyongyang, on Wednesday.   -  Special Arrangement

Bengaluru FC held its nerve to seal an aggregate 3-0 win over 4.25 SC after playing out a goalless draw in the second leg of their AFC Cup Inter-Zonal semifinal at the May Day Stadium here on Wednesday.

The result secured a place for the ISL side in the Inter-Zonal final, where it will face Tajikistan's FC Istiklol in a two-legged affair.

Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu pulled off a crucial penalty save in the second-half and was the undisputed star of the match for BFC. Sandhu's efforts helped the side maintain a third clean-sheet in three games in the AFC Cup.

In contrast to the first leg, where they had dominated proceedings for the most part, Albert Roca's men were edged out in terms of possession and chances, but made up for it with a stubborn defence.

The home side mounted repeated attacks on the BFC goal and almost took the lead in the 57th minute via Kim Yu Song but Gurpreet denied the striker from close range. Substitute An Il-Bom, who came on in the 61st minute, forced the BFC custodian into another diving save in the 70th.

The North Korean side had its best chance in the 77th minute when Rahul Bheke brought down Bom inside the box and a penalty was awarded. However, Gurpreet dived to his right to stop midfielder Ri Hyong Jin's effort from the spot.

"They dominated majority of the game and deserved to win. But at the same time, we defended very well as a team and managed to hold on to our lead from the first leg,” said Roca later.

BFC will be relieved with the outcome, especially after having overcome several hurdles off the field. While the team's arrival in DPR Korea was initially delayed due to Foundation Day Celebrations in the country, part of the luggage went missing in transit.

With 15 bags of kits and equipment arriving just a day before the game, BFC had to train in makeshift gear on the eve of the clash. The first leg of the Inter-zone final will be played in Dushanbe on September 27 with the return leg to be played at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on October 18.

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