Bengaluru FC makes it to AFC Cup Inter-Zonal final

JSW Media

JSW Media

Bengaluru FC was held to a goalless draw by North Korean side 4.25 SC in the second leg of their AFC Cup Inter-Zonal semifinal at the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang on Wednesday. Istiklol defeated Ceres Negros FC of Philippines 5-1 on aggregate in the other Inter-Zone Semi-finals. "We are happy to have made it through and now look to get back to Bengaluru and prepare for the big game against FC Istiklol", Bengaluru manager, Albert Roca said at the post-match press conference.

BFC takes a 3-0 lead into the game, having won the first leg in emphatic fashion at home last month, and will be confident of advancing to the inter-Zonal final. The tie will be played over two legs (27th September away, 18th October home).

The game, played on the artificial turf of the massive May Day Stadium, was a contrast to the first leg, where the Blues had dominated proceedings for majority of the night.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the 77th minute of a rather tame game compared to the first leg, produced an excellent save to deny the North Korean side from scoring, and the game finished as it had started. The victor of the two-legged match will face either Syria's Al Wahda or Air Force Club of Iraq in the 2017 AFC Cup final on November 4.

BFC were edged out in terms of possession and chances, but compensated with a stubborn defense as Gurpreet, Juanan Gonzalez, Rahul Bheke, Harmanjot Khabra and Nishu Kumar - who was later replaced by Subhasish Bose - kept the 4.25 SC attack at bay. With a sizeable turnout egging the home side to attack, BFC did well to arrive at the break with the scores unchanged.

Bengaluru were forced to sit deep and defend in the second half as tournament top-scorer Kim Yu Song nearly gave 4.25 SC the lead in the 57th minute with a header, but it was Gurpreet once again who denied the striker. Gurpreet dived to his right to deny midfielder Ri Hyong Jin from the penalty spot.

The pressure culminated into another chance in the dying moments of the game, as midfielder Won Song hit the crossbar with an effort from 20-yards out but it wasn't to be for the home side.

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