Bengaluru FC suffered a 0-1 defeat at the hands of FC Istiklol of Tajikistan in the first leg of the Inter-Zone Finals of the AFC Cup football here on Wednesday.
Bengaluru, the last edition runners-up, were outplayed by the Tajikistan side and would consider themselves lucky to have wriggled out of the away match without conceding too many goals. The visiting side survived an incessant onslaught from FC Istiklol, the 2015 champions, but the home side’s profligacy in front of goal saved Bengaluru from losing the match by a bigger margin.
Dmitry Barkov scored the only goal of the match in the 27th minute at the Hisor Central Stadium. For most part of the match, the Bengaluru were left to defend their citadel and the matter got worse as the backline of Albert Roca’s side committed several mistakes.
Interestingly, Bengaluru dominated the possession (63 per cent) but they could not string together a dangerous goal- scoring opportunity throughout the match. Bengaluru had two shots at target while Istiklol had seven.
Winger Udanta Singh had a fine run down the flank early in the match and then Lenny Rodrigues had a chance to test the Istiklol goalkeeper from a free kick. But after that it was Istiklol who dictated terms on their opponents. Action remained at the Bengaluru half for most part of the match and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu had to make a few fine saves to keep the score at 1-0 in favour of Istiklol.
Bengaluru defence did better in the second half and there were not many shots from Istiklol as compared to the first session. Bengaluru now host Istiklol in the second leg on October 18 Bengaluru had beaten 4.25 SC of North Korea 3-0 on aggregate in the Inter-Zone Semifinals.
The winner between Bengaluru and Istiklol will face defending champions and West Zone Finals winners Air Force Club of Iraq in the grand finale on November 4. This year’s final will be played at the home venue of the Inter-Zone Finals winners. So, if Bengaluru make it to the grand finale, it will be played in Bengaluru....