AFC Cup | Lyngdoh stunner gives Bengaluru a shot at history

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AFC Cup | Lyngdoh stunner gives Bengaluru a shot at history

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Amlan Majumdar


Eugeneson Lyndoh's dazzling strike canceled out Jorge Pereyra Diaz's opener and gave Bengaluru a crucial 1-1 draw away in the first leg of the semifinal of the AFC Cup. A goal-less draw in the second leg will now be enough to see Bengaluru through to the final – a first for an Indian team.

Bengaluru FC repeated the feat of Dempo and East Bengal to become the third Indian club to feature in the AFC Cup semifinal. However, they were hoping to go one better and create history by becoming the first Indian club to reach the final. But, the defending champions Johor Darul Ta'zim were in their way, and the Malaysian club had already defeated them twice in the group stage earlier this season. To add to their impressive head-to-head record, JDT have turned their home ground into a fortress, losing just one of their last 47 matches at home. Bengaluru were in need of a miracle to get a positive result out of this game.

Johor Darul Ta'zim FC XI: Izham (GK); Azrif, Antonio, Aidil, Fazly; Azammudin, Safiq; Hariss, Pereyra, Lucero; Azinee

Bengaluru FC XI: Amrinder (GK); Rino, Juanan, Johnson, Ranjan; Alvaro, Watson, Eugene, Alwyn; Vineeth, Chhetri

The away side made a blistering start to the first half as they made a conscious effort to press high up the pitch. The Malaysian club were rattled by the intensity of the Bengaluru players, and they nearly conceded a goal in the 6th minute. John Johnson's header from a freekick went just over the bar, and just a few seconds later, Marcos Antonio cleared off the line after Sunil Chhetri's shot was only partially saved by Izham Tarmizi.

Bengaluru dominated the opening 15 minutes of the match, but unfortunately, they could not translate the dominance into a goal. The tactic to press high up the pitch took a lot out of the Bengaluru players, and slowly their intensity dropped off. JDT began to gain control of the ball and find their footing in the match.

Eventually, Bengaluru dropped deep into their own half and the reigning champions tested their defence with a barrage of crosses from their wings. In the 26th minute, Azniee Taib drilled in a lovely cross from the left wing and Martin Lucero met it with a powerful header. However, Amrinder Singh pulled out a fantastic save while diving to his left to deny the Argentine.

Bengaluru were mostly looking to score on counter attacks, and in the 28th minute, CK Vineeth was free on the right wing and after a dazzling run, he cut back to his left foot before setting up Eugeneson Lyngdoh at the edge of the box. However, the midfielder's attempt on goal was too weak to trouble the Johor goalkeeper.

Two minutes later, Amrinder was forced into another crucial save. This time it was Azamuddin Akil with the cross from the right, but Aidil Zafuan's towering header was tipped over the bar by Amrinder. In the 36th minute, Azniee Taib squandered another golden opportunity for his team to take the lead before the halftime, when he dragged his shot wide after being put through on goal down the left wing. Amrinder made another crucial save in the 43rd minute after Diaz had played Lucero through with a lovely ball over the top of the Bengaluru defence. But his left-footed drive was saved by the Indian custodian.

Bengaluru managed to keep hold of their clean sheet at the sound of the half-time whistle, but JDT maintained their dominance after the play resumed. Eventually, in the 52nd minute the home side took the lead. Safiq Rahim's exquisite corner found Diaz unmarked inside the box, and he climbed up above everyone else to bury the ball into the net. This time, Amrinder could do nothing about it.

However, just when Bengaluru were in need of inspiration, Lyngdoh came up with something special. In the 56th minute, the midfielder received the ball outside the JDT box, and it looked like he had nowhere to go. However, in a Messi-like moment of genius, he moved the ball to his left leg and opened up a bit of space for him, despite being surrounded by three players, before lashing in a thunderous drive into the net. It was a goal of the highest quality, and one which gave Bengaluru a fighting chance to pull off an upset in the tie.

The goal stunned the home side, and they pushed hard for an equalizer. However, they could not deliver enough quality in the final third of the pitch to test the Bengaluru goalkeeper. Bengaluru held on to a well-earned draw, and the away goal could prove to be the difference between the two sides at the end of the second leg. The Malaysian team will now travel to Bengaluru and will HAVE to get a positive result in front of the vociferous West Block Blues, while even a goal-less draw will be enough to see the Blues through to the final, and you would not bet against them to do that at this stage.

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