Bengaluru FC came out 3-2 winners in a thrilling AFC Cup 2018 playoff round first leg at Male against TC Sports Club. Thongkhosiem Haokip scored a brace (52’ and 79’) for the visitors while Erik Paartalu struck in the 69th minute. Anatoliy Vlasichev (71’) and Ibrahim Mahudee (73’) were the goal-scorers for the home side.
Albert Roca lined up Bengaluru in the customary 4-3-3 formation with two changes to the side which beat Bhutanese club Transport United last time round. Zohmingliana Ralte came in at centre-back for Juanan Antonio while Erik Paartalu came in for Daniel Lalhlilpuia who made way to the bench.
Mohamed Nizam meanwhile named the same 10 outfield players for the third time in a row in the competition. Kyrgyz playmaker Anatoliy Vlasichev continued to reprise his role while Ibrahim Adam started between the sticks in the absence of the injured Dymitry Asnin.
The home side carved out a chance as early as the fourth minute when Ibrahim Mahudee delivered a cross in a dangerous area but Harmanjot Khabra was on hand to provide the block.
Nishu Kumar had the first attempt for the Blues with a long-range effort but his shot was wide off the mark. The visitors came much closer minutes later when Abdulla Haneefa conceded a foul in a dangerous area. Toni Dovale stepped up to take the free-kick and his attempt was well struck but flew just above the crossbar.
Roca was forced into a substitution midway into the first half when Harmanjot Khabra had to leave the field after a challenge by Ahmed Rilwan. Rahul Bheke came in for the full-back.
There was some drama towards the stroke of half time when Boithang Haokip and Rilwan were both shown yellow cards for an off the ball incident. The visitors had one more chance before the end of the first period when Subashish Bose connected through Boithang’s corner but his effort was blocked by the defence.
Roca’s men finally had their goal on the other side of the break through Dovale’s corner. Bheke flicked the ball onto Thongkhosiem Haokip’s path and his glancing header gave the goalkeeper no chance.
The Blues would double their lead in the 69th minute with another Dovale corner with Paartalu finding the back of the net this time.
What followed immediately was four minutes of madness in which the home side drew level with two goals of their own. Anatoliy got on the end of Mahudee’s cross from the right and sent his shot into the top corner to pull one back in the 71st minute before the provider would get on the scoresheet himself after a dreadful clearance from Nishu Kumar fell to him two minutes later. Mahudee skipped past a tackle before beating Ralte with a well placed shot.
The visitors regained their lead in the 78th minute after an excellent second goal by Thonkhosiem who turned his marker after collecting the ball and smashed the ball in from 20 yards out. Ahmed Arif had a chance to equalize for the home side in the dying minutes but his header Anatoliy’s flick-on went straight into the hands of Ralte.
There would be no more goals to come as Bengaluru took home a slender advantage for the second leg tie to come later.