Bengaluru FC wrote history in the AFC Cup by beating Maldives' Maziya Sports & Recreation Club in their first ever outing in the competition with a 2-1 win over the latter at home. Sunil Chhetri's header on 67 minutes was cancelled out by Umair's penalty with full time approaching, but Shankar's last-gasp finish in the 93rd minute saw all the points go to the Indian side.
The game's first real chance fell to the visitors despite Bengaluru controlling proceedings in the opening exchanges. In the 11th minute, Maziya star Pablo Aracil headed the ball home but was adjudged offside. The hosts though, hit back moments later with an effort from Robin Singh that went just over the bar from a volley following Sunil Chhetri's pass.
A couple of minutes later Ashley Westwood's men again threatened, this time courtesy a Shankar Sampingiraj header from Lalchummawia's cross which was just tipped over by Maziya goal-keeper Ali Amdhan. But the hosts were dealt a blow shortly after as midfielder Joshua Walker had to be replaced through injury as Siam Hanghal made his way out to the center.
With Curtis Osano looking imperious by making his presence felt by intercepting a few key Maziya passes, the visitors tried piling on the pressure but to no avail. They were relying solely on attacking Bengaluru on the counter with the help of Umair and Aracil.
In the 20th minute, Robin Singh took another swipe at the keeper but the latter was on hand to thwart the effort as Eugeneson Lyngdoh fired wide on the rebound. A minute later, Bengaluru's biggest chance of the first period culminated in Hanghal hitting the frame of the Maziya goal from distance with Amdhan barely getting fingers to it. A couple of corners followed but Maziya managed to avert the danger.
Half-chances then fell to the likes of Beikhokei, Lyngdoh and Robin Singh but Bengaluru couldn't find a way through.
Maziya did manage to claw their way back into the game slowly, but not to a dangerous extent as both sides went into the half-time break goal-less with the hosts asking more of the pertinent questions.
The second half started where the first one left off as Bengaluru continued their search for the elusive goal that would put them ahead. Robin Singh came close in the 47th minute as he headed the ball straight to keeper Ali Amdhan.
Time and again Bengaluru captain Sunil Chhetri beat his marker and came extremely close in the 55th minute as he missed an absolute sitter following Hanghal's pass; much to his disbelief. The travelling team’s skipper Abdulla was seen everywhere as he tried to keep his side together but his efforts went in vain when Niyaz failed to convert a few chances of his own at the other end.
Then on 67 minutes, Chhetri was finally in the right place and the right time when Rino floated one in as the Indian striker made no mistake this time around as he headed one from close range, ahead of the Maziya custodian Imran and into the back of the net.
Minutes later Robin Singh had a chance to add a quick-fire second for the hosts but his fierce shot went just wide of the Maziya goal.
That was the tall forward's last contribution as he made way for Australian Sean Rooney on 73 minutes.
With the clock edging towards the 90-minute mark, Maziya were awarded a penalty for a sloppy hand ball by Hanghal and Umair, who was having a fairly quiet game, stepped up and converted the penalty despite a touch by Mawia Ralte in the Bengaluru goal.
Rooney later did well to hold the ball and was feeding Rino and Eugene regularly to keep the pressure going even in the dying embers of the game.
It seemed like both side would settle for a point until Bengaluru were awarded a free kick in the 93rd minute. Lyngdoh crossed perfectly for the talented Shankar who slotted it home for the winner, sending the home supporters into delirium. The I-League champions were deserved winners on the night despite the hard work of Maziya stars such as Ali Amdhan in goal, attacker Niyaz and of course their captain Abdulla.
And so Bengaluru opened their maiden AFC Cup run with a morale-boosting 2-1 win over Maldives' Maziya at the Kanteerava Stadium...