Bengaluru FC in AFC Cup football semis

Singapore Sep 21 (IANS) Bengaluru FC qualified for the semi-finals of the AFC Cup by eking out a goalless draw against Tampines Rovers in the second leg at the Jalan Besar Stadium here on Wednesday.

The win over two legs set up a semi-final date with familiar foes and Cup holders Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia, where the Blues will travel for the first leg on September 28 at the Larkin Stadium.

Coming into the game with a 1-0 result in the home leg, Bengaluru’s best chance came in the 38th minute when a free-kick variation caught the Tampines defence unaware 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, Jermaine 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 hurt the I-League champions who joined Dempo SC and East Bengal to become only the third club from India to make it this far in the competition.

–IANS

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