Bengaluru FC went through to the next round of the AFC Cup thanks to a 1-0 win over Maziya S&RC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Wednesday.
Skipper Sunil Chhetri won the Blues the game in the 57th minute by curling in a sumptuous free-kick.
Albert Roca opted for a 3-4-3 formation, with Amrinder Singh between the sticks guarded by the back-three of Sandesh Jhingan, Juanan and John Johnson. Harmanjot Khabra and Nishu Kumar were the wingbacks, with Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Cameron Watson in the middle.
The attack was three-pronged, with Chekkiyot Vineeth flanked by Alwyn George and Sunil Chhetri.
The visitors were unchanged from their previous game in the competition, a 2-0 win over Abahani Limited Dhaka.
The hosts started the game strongly, trying to cross their way into the goal via their wingbacks, but Maziya held firm through the storm, and then seized the initiative.
The visitors outplayed the hosts for large periods in the first half and would have been disappointed to not go into the break with a lead.
Yasfaadh Habeeb was presented quite a few good chances, with the first coming inside the opening five minutes. He latched onto a pass from Abdulla Asadhulla and had a shot at goal, but it was just wide.
BFC were unable to get much going, with skipper Chhetri having a disappointing half as well. Vineeth was the target on way too many occasions, and it became clear to the Maldivian side as well, as Cordos never let him outjump him.
The visitors should have taken the lead around the seventeenth minute mark, as Ali Samooh and Asadhulla combined to play Habeeb through for a header. He managed a perfect connection, and it came off the woodwork, with the frame still rattling as Nishu cleared the ball.
There were few more chances in the first half, but Habeeb had another shot at goal, with the center backs Johnson and Jhingan messing up to gift him possession, but he couldn’t capitalize.
Vineeth had a similar situation presented to him, minutes later, with a similar result as his shot crashed into the advertising hoardings.
The teams headed back at half-time with Maziya looking the better side. But how things were to change in the second half!
Bengaluru came out all guns blazing and Eugeneson had a chance in the first move from kick-off. A move set up by Chhetri and Vineeth left Eugeneson with a shooting opportunity, but he went for placement over power, and it ended up being too weak.
However, they got the goal they wanted just ten minutes later. Juanan was fouled on the edge of the box, and up stepped the skipper, doing as he has done time and again – leaving the ball nestling in the top corner.
Minutes later, Maziya missed an open goal chance that would have been their ticket to the next round. Asadhulla and Aleksandar Rakic were alternating with shots when the ball fell to Ashadh, yards away with Amrinder stranded and the goal beckoning. However he somehow contrived to miss it.
That miss would go on to prove crucial as they couldn’t find another chance with Bengaluru manning the defense well. The rest of the game was scrappy and had few chances, but Bengaluru did what they had set out to do – make the most of the only clear chance they had, and going through to the next round.