Category: AFC Cup

AFC Cup 2018: Bengaluru FC through with an assist from Aizawl

Dhaka, Bangladesh: It took a bit of everything – a boss-like show in Dhaka, drama in Guwahati and a big push from a resolute Aizawl FC side as Bengaluru FC finished as champions of the South Zone and booked a place in the knock-out stages of the AFC Cup for a fourth straight season. Goals from Daniel Segovia (13’), Nishu Kumar (16’, 58’) and Sunil Chhetri (60’) gave the Blues a 4-0 win over Abahani Limited Dhaka. But it was the game in Guwahati that would decide Bengaluru’s fate where Aizawl who needed to beat New Radiant or hold the Maldivian side to a draw for Bengaluru to go through. And the Santosh Kashyap-coached side chose the three-point route to aid the Blues, beating New Radiant 2-1.

The water-logged pitch from overnight showers looked like giving Bengaluru FC trouble, but two quick goals in a span of three minutes dispelled any such worries for Albert Roca. Playing a slightly heavy version of their free-flowing brand of football, the Blues shot into the lead when Chhetri rolled the ball perfectly across the face of the goal, leaving Segovia with the simple job of scoring past Abahani ’keeper Sahidul Alam to make it 1-0.

Chhetri then squirmed past two blue Abahani shirts to tee up Nishu who slammed the ball low to the corner and beyond Alam. The two early blows were enough to prompt Abahani into submission as Bengaluru hogged possession and began camping in the hosts’ final third.

Chhetri then completed a hat-trick of assists when he chipped over the Abahani defence for Nishu to fantastically control the ball on his chest before firing home from close to make it 3-0. The skipper finally got into the act on the hour mark when Alam spilled a cross that fell to Chhetri who scored his 24th goal of the season with a simple finish after holding off a defender.

Elsewhere in Aizawl where everyone who had anything to do with Bengaluru FC had their eyes on, Leonce Dodoz gave the hosts a 61st minute lead that Romanian Andrei Ionescu doubled in the 82nd minute. New Radiant needed three goals to keep their hopes of making the knock-out stages alive and Ibrahim Hassan began the fight with an 85th minute strike. But Aizawl, with nothing to play for in Group E, clung on to the lead that sent the squad in Dhaka in raptures.

A draw process that involves four zones – Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia and ASEAN – will determine Bengaluru’s next opponents. While three group winners have been decided, the final of the ASEAN Zone is yet to take place.

AFC Cup 2018: Bengaluru bank on pluck and a little luck against Abahani

Dhaka, Bangladesh: Bengaluru FC will hope for the rub of the green to go their way at more than one venue on Wednesday, when they take on Abahani Limited Dhaka, at the Bangabandhu National Stadium, in Bangladesh, in their final Group E game of the 2018 AFC Cup.

Albert Roca’s men need a win while hoping Aizawl FC claim a point or more against New Radiant SC in Group E’s other fixture, if they are to stand a chance of qualifying for knock-out stages of the Cup for a fourth successive year. Meanwhile, the Maldivian side simply need to match Bengaluru FC’s result, as a better goal difference in the head-to-head comparison between the two sides will pull New Radiant through.

“It’s true that we are in a position where a win may not be enough to qualify, but it has been made clear to the players that we have to remain focused on the task ahead. We cannot take Abahani (Limited Dhaka) lightly, as they are a team with some good players and we have seen that in our travels here before,” said Roca, speaking to the press on the eve of the clash.

Bengaluru’s only previous visit to Dhaka ended in defeat to the Bangladeshi side in the group stages of last year’s AFC Cup campaign with late goals from Saad Uddin and Rubel Miya handing Roca’s men a 2-0 loss. In a more recent meeting between the sides, Daniel Lalhlimpuia scored a 72nd minute winner at the Kanteerava Stadium in March as the Blues began their continental campaign.

The Saiful Bari Titu-coached Abahani side are out of contention for the knockout stages and have won just one of their five games so far this campaign, a 3-0 away victory in Aizawl – their only win across all competitions in the last four months – but Roca believes there is no room for complacency.

“We have always had close games against Abahani Dhaka, as they are difficult to break down and play a different style of football. The conditions in Bangladesh are also quite different from what we are used to, so we will have to be wary if we are to do well and take anything away from this game,” the Spaniard said.

Bengaluru were dealt a late blow when winger Boithang Haokip suffered an injury that kept him out of the traveling squad while right-back Nishu Kumar has joined the team from Kolkata, where he was in action with the club’s reserve squad against Mohammedan Sporting in the 2nd Division League. Meanwhile, Abahani will be missing the services of midfielder Mohammad Fahad, along with the Nigerian duo of attacker Sunday Chizoba and defender Ndukaku Alison who are all suspended.

The game in Dhaka kicks off at 7.15 pm local time (6.45 pm IST).

AFC Cup 2018: On-song Bengaluru triumph 5-0 against Aizawl FC

Bengaluru: Goals from Sunil Chhetri (16’), Daniel Segovia (17’, 62’), Udanta Singh (30’) and Daniel Lalhlimpuia (89’) gave Albert Roca the reaction he wanted from his side as Bengaluru FC beat a hapless Aizawl FC 4-0 at the Kanteerava Stadium, to keep their hopes of a place in the knock-out stages of the AFC Cup alive.

In Wednesday’s other fixture, Group E leaders New Radiant of Maldives had little trouble against Abahani Dhaka Limited, beating the side from Bangladesh 5-1. Part of a two-horse race to progress to the zonal semifinal, Bengaluru will need to beat Abahani and hope that New Radiant either lose or draw against Aizawl in Guwahati, in what will be the last round of group stage games.

Bengaluru’s first chance at taking the lead came in the 11th minute when Udanta Singh blitzed down the right and sent in a delightful cross that Daniel Segovia brought down. But the Spaniard’s shot on goal was kept out by Lalawmpuia.

But the Blues didn’t have to wait for too long after Chhetri, who was brought down by Lalawmpuia in the box, stepped up in the 16th minute to score what was his 23rd goal of the season. Hurting from a disappointing defeat to New Radiant last week and having tasted blood with the skipper’s opener, Bengaluru took only a minute to score again. Erik Paartalu followed up a fantastic interception with a no-look pass that Segovia caressed past the ’keeper’s left.

Paartalu was then involved in Bengaluru’s third goal, picking Chhetri’s run with the perfect ball over the Aizawl defence. The Bengaluru captain took on a defender before squaring the ball for Udanta to tap home and make it 3-0.

It was one-way traffic for all of the first half and the script didn’t change in the second. Segovia got his second of the night, a glancing header from a Subhasish Bose cross in the 62nd minute.

A second-half substitute for Boithang Haokip, Lalhlimpuia rounded of a quality performance with a fifth Bengaluru goal with barely a minute left on the clock. Chhetri, squirmed past an Aizawl shirt in the box before squaring a pass for the young striker who didn’t make a mistake with his shot on goal.

Bengaluru now travel to Bangladesh where they play Abahani Dhaka on May 16.

AFC Cup 2018: Roca seeks reaction as Bengaluru take on Aizawl

Bengaluru: A big reaction is what Albert Roca has asked for, when Bengaluru FC host Aizawl FC on Wednesday in the first of two must-win games if they are to harbour any hopes of making it to the knock-out stages of the AFC Cup for a fourth straight season.

A shock 2-0 defeat to New Radiant in the Maldives last week meant Bengaluru’s chances to make the zonal semifinal of the tournament don’t entirely rest in their hands. Roca’s Blues will have to win both of their remaining two fixtures in Group E while hoping that the Maldivian side drop points at least once. “We are in a situation where we could finish the group stages with 15 points and still find ourselves out of the Cup. But that’s how football is sometimes and we need to accept it and focus on getting our side of the job done and then hope for the best,” said the Spaniard.

Wins in the next two games for both Bengaluru FC and New Radiant would leave the clubs square on points but a superior head-to-head goal difference gives Oscar Bruzon’s side the edge they need to progress in the tournament.

Roca, who had to watch an uncharacteristically bland Bengaluru FC performance in the Maldives from the stands at the National Stadium, will be back on the touchline having served a one-game suspension. And he admits the team will have to do more than just shake off everything from that game. “It was more disappointing than frustrating to watch the way we played last week. We didn’t turn up and were made to suffer. But there’s no time to discuss the defeat. We need to react with a strong performance that gives us the best chance to progress.”

When the two sides met in Guwahati early in April, Bengaluru FC came away 3-1 winners after conceding early. It hasn’t exactly been a comfortable welcome to life in continental football for the Santosh Kashyap-coached side who, with one point from four games, are bottom of the table.

Bengaluru, meanwhile, will have Spanish striker Daniel Segovia back in contention after an injury forced him to miss the trip to Male. “Segovia’s return gives us more options in attack and given our situation, we need goals to finish the game off. Of course, it’s going to take a collective effort over two games to pull us over the line,” said Roca.

In the group’s other game, New Radiant host third-placed Abahani Dhaka in an early kick-off and while Roca admits that the team will have an eye on how the game ends, he’s certain it won’t affect Bengaluru’s intent when they take the pitch. “It’s unfortunate that we have to depend on other results to go our way. But like I’ve said before, we need to fix as much as we can and that will happen when we put on a performance that this team is capable of.”

Kick off at the Kanteerava Stadium is at 8 pm and will be telecast live on the AFC Cup Facebook page.

AFC Cup 2018: Bengaluru go down 2-0 to New Radiant in Maldives

Male, Maldives: Goals from Ali Fasir (30’) and Ali Ashfaq (47’) consigned Bengaluru FC to their first defeat in the 2018 AFC Cup campaign as New Radiant beat the Blues 2-0 at the National Stadium, in Male, on Wednesday. The win for the Maldivian side leaves Group E tantalisingly poised as both teams sit on 9 points with two games to play.

In the other Group E game, Abahani Dhaka were held to a 1-1 draw by Aizawl FC which leaves all to be played for in the final two rounds of the South Zone.

Eduard Gasol took charge in the absence of the suspended Albert Roca as the Blues made seven changes to the starting XI with Juanan, Rahul Bheke, Subhasish Bose, Victor Perez, Lenny Rodrigues, Udanta Singh and skipper Sunil Chhetri all returning to the team.

Bengaluru, who looked jaded and a shadow of the team that triumphed in the Super Cup back home last week, went behind in the 30th minute after Fasir finished a move down the left with a strike past Lalthuammawia Ralte to make it 1-0.

Chhetri had a chance to level things in the 36th minute when he found himself through on goal. But ’keeper Mohamed Imran made himself big to deny the Bengaluru skipper.

With a suspended Roca passing instructions to the bench from the stands, Bengaluru started the second half with two changes. Paartalu and Lenny were pulled off for Malsawmzuala and Boithang Haokip as the Blues looked to find a way back into the game.

But the charge suffered a heavy dent soon after the restart when striker Ali Ashfaq capitalised on a defensive blunder to give the hosts a two-goal cushion. Struggling to keep possession of what seemed like a routine pass, Bheke was stolen by Ashfaq who wasn’t going to squander the chance to score.

Bengaluru continued to toil under the sun and looked like in danger of falling back further if it hadn’t been for some brave goalkeeping from Ralte. The Bengaluru ’keeper kept lending his attack an opportunity to claw back into the tie, making some vital saves in the second half.

With a little more than ten minutes to the end of regulation time, Bengaluru made their final change, bringing Daniel Lalhlimpuia on for Thongkhosiem Haokip who didn’t have a game to shout about. The last ten minutes didn’t produce much chances for the Blues who suffered their first defeat in the competition since the 1-0 away loss to FC Istiklol Dushanbe in the first leg of the Inter-zone Final in the 2017 AFC Cup.

Bengaluru will go on to host domestic rivals Aizawl FC in their next game on May 2 at the Kanteerava Stadium.

AFC Cup 2018: Bengaluru FC look to stretch lead as New Radiant keep chase going

Male, Maldives: Bengaluru FC will look to keep their flawless record in Maldives intact, when they take on New Radiant SC in a Group E fixture of the AFC Cup at the National Stadium, in Male, on Wednesday. The Blues are yet to drop points against a team from the island country across three years of continental competition and Albert Roca will hope the habit continues.

Bengaluru, however, will be without their Spanish manager on the touchline as Roca is serving his one-game suspension after he was sent off during the home leg of the same fixture. Goalkeeping coach Eduardo Gasol will be the man in charge as Bengaluru look to widen the gap atop the points table and edge closer to yet another place in the knock-out stages of the competition.

Gasol was confident but cautious at the same time, admitting that the Indian Super Cup champions won’t have it easy. “We do have a good record against teams from Maldives away from home, but most of the games have been close. Against TC Sports Club we came away with a narrow 3-2 win, even against Maziya the season before, we scored in the final minute. Tomorrow is going to be tough and we are sure of that,” said Gasol.

Even against New Radiant at the Kanteerava, it needed a last-minute winner from Nishu Kumar to give the Blues all points and Gasol said the task away from home would only be more difficult against Oscar Bruzon’s side. “They are a good team who looked like putting us in trouble a few times and they will only be more confident at home. We will have to be alert at all times.”

The Blues come into this fixture on the back of a fantastic showing in the Super Cup and will hope that the momentum doesn’t drop. The attack turned up with 13 goals in four games while the defence let only five slip past them as Bengaluru stayed true to tradition of winning a trophy in every season since its inception.

With three wins in as many games, Bengaluru lead Group E with nine points and have New Radiant chasing, with six points from three games. Roca has relied on his youngsters to get the job done in the AFC Cup this season, but with the Indian Super League and Super Cup behind them, the Spaniard could be tempted to throw in a few big names in the mix. “Everyone is up for selection and like always, the coach along with the staff will sit and decide what the best XI would be for the game against New Radiant,” said Gasol.

AFC Cup 2018: Nishu’s late strike gives Bengaluru the points against New Radiant

Bengaluru: It took an unlikely source but Nishu Kumar’s injury-time winner (90+1’) was worth its weight in gold as Bengaluru FC beat Maldivian side New Radiant SC 1-0 to surge on top of the AFC Cup Group E table as sole leaders, at the Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Tuesday.

Bengaluru had a big chance in the 15th minute when ’keeper Mohamed Imran charged outside the New Radiant box in a bid to clear an attack, but was left stranded after Thongkhosiem Haokip stole possession. The striker instinctively went for goal only to see his shot headed out by defender Haroon Amiri off the line.

Haokip then had a relatively tougher chance to put away in the 32nd minute when Khabra, picked out by a ball from the middle, sent in a cross into the box. Haokip met the ball on the volley but was awkwardly positioned to make the most of it.

Roca started the second half with one change, bringing in Subhasish Bose for Zohmingliana Ralte, looking to add more pace in attack down the wings. With both defences at their stubborn best, chances weren’t easy to come by. Daniel Segovia, who scored in the win over Aizawl last week, could have broken the deadlock in the 65th minute when a cross in defence deflected and fell to him. The Spaniard was left with a tinge of regret for not shooting sooner as a swarm of New Radiant shirts succeeded in taking the ball off him after some effort.

The Blues’ Spanish manager then rang in two changes that indicated a late charge, within minutes of each other. Skipper Sunil Chhetri who hasn’t had too much of a part to play in the club’s AFC Cup campaign so far, came on for Haokip. Victor Perez for Alwyn George was the final change of the night.

Chhetri, operating on the right in attack, was sent through on goal in the 84th minute but a nudge from defender Angel Paz was enough to break the skipper’s momentum who had shouts for a penalty swiftly turned down. Bengaluru were then a man down in the dugout when, referee Hanna Yatab gave Blues’ boss Roca his marching orders for a round of protests.

With three minutes of additional time to claim the points, the skipper was sent through on goal by an exquisite pass from Boithang Haokip. With New Radiant custodian Mohamed Imran coming off his line in anticipation of the shot, Chhetri rolled it across for an incoming Nishu, who tapped home to hand Bengaluru the lead and with it, the three points.

The Blues are off to Bhubaneshwar next, where they take on I-League side Neroca FC in the quarterfinal of the Super Cup, on Friday.

AFC Cup 2018: Fortress to come alive again as Bengaluru face New Radiant SC

Bengaluru: The Sree Kanteerava Stadium will play host to its first game since the Indian Super League final when Albert Roca’s Bengaluru FC side welcome New Radiant SC in a 2018 AFC Cup group stage clash, on Tuesday. Having won their six previous AFC Cup games on the trot, Roca stressed the need for his Blues to maintain consistency in a competition in which they have reached the semifinal stage for two consecutive seasons.

“New Radiant are a very good side and have some quality players in their ranks. We saw them play against Aizawl and in Dhaka and we’re sure that we will have to be at our best to take anything away from them,” said the Spaniard, speaking at the pre-match press conference.

Bengaluru claimed a 1-0 win at the Fortress in their opening match of the 2018 AFC Cup group stages with a win against Abahani Dhaka before a 3-1 away defeat of Aizawl in Guwahati earlier this month. Striker Daniel Lalhlimpuia scored in both games, and could be set to make a start on Tuesday.

“We have some players who are in form and others who have been waiting for their chance. I will have to rest a few key players because we have a Super Cup quarterfinal coming up but I am sure that those who take the field will give their best,” added the Spaniard.

The Blues sit atop the standings in Group E, with two wins from two games, having scored four goals and conceded just one. Bengaluru boast a perfect record against Maldivian sides, with six wins from as many games over three seasons of the continental competition. The only major doubt for the Blues is central defender Juanan Gonzalez, who is nursing an injury sustained in the closing stages of the Indian Super League.

New Radiant, AFC Cup semifinalists in 2005 and the only Maldivian club to have progressed beyond group stages in the AFC cup on multiple occasions, come into the game with numbers identical to those of Roca’s men, having won their opening game against Aizawl 3-1 in Henveiru, before a 1-0 win against Abahani Dhaka in Bangladesh.

Talismanic striker Ali Ashfaq is the man in form and Roca admits the Bengaluru back line will need to be sharper than usual. “We were all upset with the way we conceded against Aizawl but we showed enough character to come back. We cannot afford to make those mistakes against New Radiant who have quality in attack. The game is a chance for us to go ahead on points alone and it’s one we must work hard to make count.”

AFC Cup 2018: Composed Bengaluru FC get the job done in Guwahati

Guwahati, Assam: Goals from Daniel Segovia (45+1’), Rahul Bheke (63’) and Daniel Lalhlimpuia (77’) ensured Bengaluru FC maintained their perfect start to their Group E campaign of the AFC Cup with a 3-1 win over Aizawl FC at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, in Guwahati, on Thursday.

Trailing after an early setback, Albert Roca’s boys kept their calm and went about staging an assured comeback that now sees them with six points from two games. The Spaniard underlined the faith he had in the squad that has been getting more than just the job done for the Blues in this season’s continental campaign so far, by naming Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh and Udanta Singh among others, on the bench.

The Blues got off to a poor start under the rain conceding inside five minutes. Skipper Lalthuammawia Ralte, who rushed ahead to clear a through pass from Andrei Ionescu aimed at attacker Albert Zohmingmawia, found his effort come off striker Leonce Dodoz (5’) and roll into an empty net to give the hosts an early lead.

While Aizawl opted to protect their lead by sitting back, the next forty minutes saw Bengaluru press and dominate proceedings spare the odd attack on the counter from the hosts. The Blues finally made the huge chunk of possession count at the stroke of half time. Erik Paartalu’s header from a Bengaluru corner caught the hand of Dodoz in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Segovia stepped up to calmly slot home his first goal since joining the club in the middle of the season, to make it 1-1.

Bengaluru and Segovia had a big chance to score a second minutes into the start of the second half, but the striker fluffed his lines from the spot after Subhasish Bose was brought down in the box. Segovia sent Avilash Paul the wrong way only to see his take come off the post and roll out.

But the Blues refused to let the miss dampen their chase for the lead and their wait wasn’t too long before they got the goal to send them ahead. A corner played short saw Alwyn George lose a man before sending in a cross that Bheke did well to nod home in the 63rd minute.

Second half substitute Lalhlimpuia who scored the winner in the Blues’ Group E opener against Abahani Dhaka Limited, got his second of the campaign in the 77th minute. Setting off on a run down the left with the ball, Bose squared the ball perfectly for Lalhlimpuia who took a touch before slotting past Paul who could maybe have done better to keep it out.

Lalhlimpuia could have got his second of the night after some fantastic work by George saw him tee up the striker. But this time, Paul got enough of a hand on the ball to keep it out.

Bengaluru now host Maldivian side New Radiant SC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on April 10.

AFC Cup 2018: Focus shifts to Asia as Bengaluru take on Aizawl

Guwahati, Assam: Bengaluru FC’s hectic month of fixtures continues as they shift focus from Super Cup duties to an AFC Cup Group E clash against Aizawl FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati, Assam, on Thursday. Blues boss Albert Roca has called this a test of his squad’s fitness and depth, with Bengaluru set to play three games in three different venues, in little over a week.

“Everyone knows that a successful club is involved in many tournaments and it is the same with Bengaluru FC since I joined. We play Aizawl tomorrow, and then fly to Bangalore to face New Radiant SC, after which we fly to Bhubaneswar again for the Super Cup quarterfinals. It is a tough schedule, but it is something that we take as a challenge and I am sure that my players will be ready for it,” said Roca.

The Spaniard rolled out a full-strength eleven for the Blues’ pre-quarterfinal win against Gokulam Kerala FC over the weekend and with a few new faces joining the squad in Guwahati, it will be interesting to see the line-up that takes the pitch to face the side from the hills tomorrow.

“Aizawl are a very good team with some skillful foreigners in key positions. We saw them when they played Chennaiyin FC in Bhubaneswar and we also followed their run in the I-League. It’s no question that whoever plays for my team will have to give their best because we are playing a team that’s very quick and can punish you at any moment,” said Roca.

The Blues began the 2018 AFC Cup Group stages with a 1-0 win over Abahani Dhaka FC through a second half strike from Daniel Lalhlimpuia, while Aizawl went down 3-1 to New Radiant SC in Maldives.

“It’s true that we have won our first game in the competition, but it’s important not to dwell on an advantage. Every team in the group is a strong contender for qualification and we have to be wary of that to avoid any slip ups,” said Roca.

Santosh Kashyap’s Aizawl side, meanwhile, will be without the services of defender Lalramhmunmawia, who was sent off in the previous clash against New Radiant. Romanian midfielder Andrei Ionescu scored twice for the 2017 I-League champions in the Super Cup pre-quarterfinal against Chennaiyin FC and will be a player that the Blues’ backline will do well to keep quiet.

The match in Guwahati kicks off at 6.30 pm.