Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC bowed out of the 2020 AFC Cup in the playoff round as a penalty shootout against Maziya S&RC saw Hussain Nihan score what was the deciding spot-kick, at the Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Wednesday. Goals from Sunil Chhetri (80’, 102’) and Deshorn Brown made it 3-2 to the Blues on the night, but misses from the spot meant heartbreak for the Blues.
Terming the fixture as a ‘final’ in his pre-match press conference, Carles Cuadrat rolled out a starting eleven that had Erik Paartalu, Deshorn Brown, Nili Perdomo and Juanan Gonzalez. Suresh Wangjam, who missed the away tie with a suspension, operated in the midfield, while Udanta Singh and Ashique Kuruniyan were on the wings in attack.
In a first half that the Blues completely owned in terms of possession, Paartalu saw a long-range shot on target palmed away by ’keeper Ovays Azizi. Bengaluru had Maziya on the ropes, winning a succession of set-pieces but failing to capitalise on any. Perdomo had a chance in the dying seconds of the half when Bengaluru won a freekick in a dangerous position. But the Spaniard’s take was hit straight at Azizi.
Cuadrat didn’t waste time in bringing Sunil Chhetri on for Udanta just minutes after the restart, as Bengaluru stepped up the attack in search of that elusive and important goal. And the breakthrough came in the 58th minute when Brown finished off a move that Wangjam did brilliantly well to create. Grabbing the ball down the left, the youngster ran a fair distance taking on yellow shirts before getting into the Maziya box and playing the perfect cut-back to Brown who finished it first-time with a firm left foot.
But just when it looked like Bengaluru were in firm control to see the lead through, Maziya drew level in the 74th minute through substitute Ibrahim Waheed after he was set up by Cornelius Ezekiel. The goal put the aggregate score at 2-3 in favour of the Maldivian side.
Having to throw everything at the visitors, Cuadrat’s second change of the night was an attacking one, where the Spaniard brought on Leon Augustine for right-back Rino Anto. With the clock running down, Bengaluru turned to a familiar face to pull them back into the game as Chhetri scored in the 80th minute to make it 3-3 on aggregate. Perdomo’s shot from distance was kept out by Azizi, only for Chhetri to tap home from close.
Looking to capitalise on the momentum and finish the game off in regulation time, Bengaluru stepped up their charge with a flurry of attacks, only for Maziya to see it out and take the game to extra time.
The see-saw encounter took yet another turn when Ezekiel, who set up Maziya’s first on the night, scored in the 102nd minute to shift the aggregate 3-4 in his side’s favour. With away goals scored in extra time holding no advantage, all Bengaluru needed was one of their own to keep the tie alive. And Chhetri chose the first of three additional minutes in the second half of extra time to pull Bengaluru right back into the game with a peach of a freekick that he sent home directly from the edge of the box to make it 3-2 on the night and 4-4 on aggregate and take the game to penalties.
After Erik Paartalu and Kean Lewis scored their penalties, misses from Sharif, Bheke and Ahmad meant Deshorn Brown was given the chance to score what could have been the deciding goal from the spot. The Jamaican, however, skied his shot, allowing Maziya the chance to take it to sudden death. After Parag Shrivas’ shot went over the woodwork, substitute Hussain Nihan made no mistake from the spot to give Maziya the advantage.
Bengaluru face ATK in the first leg of the Indian Super League semifinal, at the Kanteerava Stadium, on Sunday, 1st March.