Bengaluru, May 31 (IANS) Bengaluru FC rode on skipper Sunil Chhetri’s second-half strike to qualify for the AFC Cup knockout stages in a must-win game against Maziya Sports & Recreation at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Wednesday.
On nine points from five matches prior to kickoff, Bengaluru had to win against Maziya (12 points) to make the cut as only one team would qualify from each group. Bengaluru have a better head-to-head record against the Maldives side and with the win secured their place in the last 16.
Chhetri made amends for a poor first half with a splendid goal in the 57th minute. Maziya had chances galore but were guilty of not converting them. They needed a draw to qualify.
The barren first half saw the visitors waste a few chances to get ahead as the hosts played second fiddle and were lucky not to concede.
Chhetri, returning from injury, looked off colour while his counterpart Asadhulla Abdulla led from the front.
It was Asadhulla’s spadework in the 17th minute that saw Ali Samooh cross for Yasfaadh Habeeb, who found the woodwork between him and the goal.
Habeeb had another chance to draw first blood in the 33rd minute but his shot lacked venom and was collected easily by Amrinder Singh in the Bengaluru goal.
Albert Roca’s side started the second half a different side to the first essay, stepping on the gas from the word go. Chhetri and Federation Cup final hero C.K. Vineeth exchanged passes to set up Eugeneson Lyngdoh whose sidefooted attempt was well blocked by a rival defender.
The Blues finally reaped rewards of a good show when Chhetri curled one into the top corner to send the home crowd into raptures.
Maziya’s Ashad Ali had a golden chance to draw level and salvage their campaign but he inexplicably missed from five yards with Amrinder stranded.