Bengaluru FC has written a new chapter in golden letters in the history of Indian Football, as their 3-1 second leg win(4-2 on agg) against the Malaysian champions and defending AFC Cup champions Johar Darul Takzim made them the first ever Indian club to reach the final of an AFC club competition. Fittingly, Sunil Chhetri was the star of the show as two cracking goals which included a stunning long ranger made sure that the AFC Cup will have a different name.
One of the newest clubs in India, Bengaluru FC has made a sensational start having been crowned the I-league champions twice in their first 3 seasons and also winning the Fed cup last year. Bengaluru’s run in the AFC Cup has been an impressive one as they saw off very strong challenges from Hong Kong’s Kitchee SC in the round of sixteen and a highly fancied Tampines Rovers FC in the quarter finals before knocking out the defending champions Johor in the semis.
The team owned by JSW Group who came into being in the 2013-14 as a result of the AIFF’s effort to expand the reach of football outside Goa and Kolkata and to fill the vacant spots left by the institutional clubs Air India and ONGC. The Bangalore based Blues has not looked back since and has gone on to conquer literally everything within their sight. And this appearence in the finals of one of the biggest club tournaments in Asia is an indication of the potential that they possess.
Not everything seemed to be on their side as their manager Ashley Westwood resigned by mutual consent and the Spanish Albert Roca took charge and has not had too much time to prepare the side for the challenges. Bengaluru FC has however exceeded everyone’s expectations and have now placed themselves among the elite in Asia.
The visitors for the night were not new for the Blues as they had met previously in the group games in which Johor went onto win on both the occassions.
The Kanteerava stadium was at its vocal best as they welcomed the defending champions Johar Darul Takzim. The Malaysian outfit who were coming off a successful league campaign were without their influential trio of Jorge Pereyra Diaz, Martin Lucero and Amri Yahyah. The visitors who came into the match, knowing that they should score after Eugeneson’s wondrous goal in the first leg handed Bengaluru FC a very vital away goal.
And after a bright start start to the game, the home crowd was silenced in the 11th minute. An undecisive Amrinder Singh spooned the ball towards the goal and Safiq Rahim was in position to head home the opening goal of the game. But the visitors seemed to rest on their defence after taking the lead and this was an invitation for Bengaluru to go on the attack which they duly did. And after some promising waves of attack, the home side drew level thanks to a neatly placed header from their skipper. Eugeneson’s perfectly weighted corner was headed home in an impressive manner by Sunil Chhetri in the 40th minute which caused an eruption of the Kanteerava stadium. And the home side kept the moment going as they ended the first half strong.
The second half was also more of the same as Bengaluru FC continued their movement forward. And Johar were made to pay for their conscious approach as Bengaluru grew stronger into the game.
The home side were rewarded for their efforts or it would be more fitting to say that their skipper earned a reward for their efforts. Chhetri scored his second of the game in quite sublime fashion as he rifled a right foot shot into the top corner.
With 23 minutes remaining in the clock, the away side had an uphill task on their hands as they seemed to have little answers for the Bengaluru attacks.
And instead of seeing a strong response from Johar, Bengaluru went onto strengthen their position in the tie shortly in the 75th minute. Eugeneson was again the man as his perfectly waited free-kick was headed home by Juanan.
Despite the heroes of match Sunil Chhetri and Eugeneson going off with injuries, Bengaluru had enough hunger in them to see off the defending champions against all odds.
The very famous West Block Blues were at their vocal best and they were cheering their side along with the whole nation towards new unconquered territory. The final whistled marked the dawn of a new chapter in the history of Indian football as they would now battle it out to be earn the crown of the second biggest club tournament in Asia.