Bengaluru FC take on 4.25 SC, Look to Seal AFC Cup Semi Final Berth.
India’s best domestic football team; Bengaluru FC go into the 2nd leg of the inter-zonal semi final of the AFC Cup on Wednesday with a healthy 3-0 advantage against North Korean side 4.25 from the first leg at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.
Pyongyang: India’s best domestic football team; Bengaluru FC go into the 2nd leg of the inter-zonal semi final of the AFC Cup on Wednesday with a healthy 3-0 advantage against North Korean side 4.25 from the first leg at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. The losing finalists from last season, are well on course to progress to the next round, and would look to guard against complacency.
After an inconsistent group stage, 2016 runners-up Bengaluru produced their most convincing performance of the competition in the first-leg win over 4.25 SC last month and will hope to seal a berth in the inter-zonal finals with a strong show at the May Day Stadium.
Ace striker Sunil Chhetri’s stylish ‘Panenka’ penalty calmed any nerves at the rain soaked Sree Kanteerava Stadium on August 23rd, before second-half goals from the pacy Udanta Singh and Lenny Rodrigues ensured ‘The Blues’ would take a big lead to Pyongyang for the away leg.
Albert Roca’s side have lost their last two AFC Cup games on the road and must look to avoid conceding early. On the other hand, an early goal in their favour would all but put the result of the tie beyond doubt.
Chhetri will once again be the man BFC look to for inspiration, but the emergence of 21-year-old Udanta has added sharpness upfront, while Spaniard Dimas Delgado, who boasts off AFC Champions League experience, has the knowhow to help the Indian side through the potentially tricky encounter.
Bengaluru, though, will go into tomorrow’s match with little practice as they arrived in North Korea late on the 11th of September after transiting through China. The team’s initial plan was to travel to Pyongyang on September 8, but North Korea’s Foundation Day Celebrations next day meant the Blues had to postpone their departure to the night of September 10
Speaking on the eve of the crucial game, Roca adopted a cautious approach, saying he expects his team to stay focused and avoid any slip ups. “It’s going to be a tough match for us, given the conditions. Even though we have a three-goal advantage, we can’t be complacent. We have to stay focused on our game plan and get the job done tomorrow,” he said.
Regarding the lack of time to acclimatise to the conditions, Roca said, “Ideally we would have liked to arrive a little earlier, which would have given our boys enough time to get used to the conditions. But it is what it is. We want to hit the ground running and I hope it turns out to be a good experience.”
Roca, who has a squad which is free from suspensions or injuries, will hope the likes of Dimas Delgado, Lenny Rodrigues and Harmanjot Khabra are watchful, as a booking in this game will find them suspended from the inter-zonal finals, should the Blues make it through.
The East Asia Zonal champions, 4.25 SC who are making their debut in the competition, matched BFC pass for pass in the first leg till Chhetri stepped up. The North Koreans did struggle in the torrential rain after that, but it was the first time that they failed to score in a game in the AFC Cup.
The Pyongyang based side will depend heavily on the tournament’s top scorer Kim Yu-Song (9 goals), while captain An Il-Bom is expected to be the driving force behind the team.