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Bengaluru FC added a special page in their short but successful history after a 0-0 (1-0 aggregate)draw against Tampines Rovers at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday night was enough to send them to the semifinal of the AFC Cup. The game that had way more than its fair share of drama with both teams creating chances aplenty, was seen through by Albert Roca’s boys who took control of things in a strong second half show.
The win over two legs set up a semifinal date with familiar foes and Cup holders Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia, where the Blues will travel to for the first leg on September 28 at the Larkin Stadium.
Coming into the game with a 1-0 result in the home leg, Roca decided to go with an unchanged starting XI. The bench, however, had two changes with Beikhokhei Beingaichho and Gursimrat Gill coming in place of Udanta Singh and Lalchhuanmawia who missed the trip with injuries.
Bengaluru’s best chance came in the 38th minute when a freekick variation caught the Tampines defence unawares but a sliding Eugeneson Lyngdoh couldn’t get his foot to what was a delicious pass across the face of the goal from CK Vineeth.
Only a minute later, Jermain Pennant fluffed his lines from inside the box when the former Arsenal man when he lobbed a half-hearted strike over the Blues’ goal. Earlier, Tampines’ Muhammad Hafiz came close to giving the hosts a lead when he intercepted a poor pass from Nishu Kumar and set off on a free run before his strike drew a save from Amrinder Singh.
The Blues got off to a bright start in the second half and Chhetri could have handed them a vital lead in the 48th minute when he lost a defender in the box before shooting, only for Mohamad Izwan to make a save.
A far cry from the frantic first half that saw them give away possession rather cheaply, the Blues turned up with a far more controlled show that saw them string passes and hold possession for long spells in the game.
Needing a goal to keep their hopes alive and take the game to extra-time, Tampines pressed high up and came close on a few occasions through Jordan Webb and Muhammad Hafiz. But the Bengaluru defence refused to press the panic button, making vital steals and patiently building up the game from the back. In the 77th minute Chhetri and Eugeneson exchanged a smart one-two but the latter’s shot lacked the sting it needed.
The Blues should have surely put the game to bed in the third of the five minutes of additional time but late substitute Vishal Kumar’s fierce strike was kept out by Izwan and Eugeneson’s follow-up strike ricocheted off the post with the ’keeper well beaten.
But none of the missed chances would come back to bite the Indian champions who joined Dempo SC and East Bengal to become only the third club from India to make it this far in the competition.
Bengaluru FC Head Coach Albert Roca’s quotes from the post match press interaction:
His thoughts on the game:
“It was a tough game. Tampines are a good team with very good players who can make a difference but we were prepared for that. It was difficult, but if you look over the two fixtures we have created more opportunities and kept control of both games for most parts and we deserve to pass through to the semifinals.”
“We try to be better in some aspects and to read more of the game. Some of our players are young and yet they make good decisions on the field. We haven’t conceded a goal in two games, which is a good sign.”
On the performance of his defenders:
“We have good defenders but it’s not only about their performance. It’s about the whole team being compact and defending and attacking at the same time and having a good balance.”
On Amrinder’s performance:
“Amrinder did well between the posts. He didn’t have much to do during the game but he pulled off a great save when he was called for it and I’m happy with his performance.”
His thoughts on the upcoming semifinals:
“The semifinal is surely going to be even harder. We are not competing in the domestic League and have had only had two official games in three and a half months. It makes things difficult with regards to how physical the team will be but we’ll stay positive. The team has shown that they are competitive and we’ll show more of that in a bid to make it to the final.”
This was an official Press Release provided by Bengaluru FC.