An inspired and stunning second half comeback saw Bengaluru FC etch their names in the annals of Indian football history by becoming the first club to make the final of the AFC Cup when they booted out reigning champions Johor Darul Ta’zim 3-1 at a packed Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Wednesday night.
A brace from skipper Sunil Chhetri and a debut goal from Spanish defender Juan Gonzalez saw Bengaluru set up a summit clash against Iraq’s Air Force Club who beat Lebanese side Al Ahed in the first semifinal on Tuesday. What made the win even more special was the fact that it was the first time the Blues had beaten the Malaysian club in five meetings.
For all the pressure Bengaluru threw at Johor, it was the visitors who scored first when Amrinder Singh’s parried save from a strike looped up and Safiq Rahim was at hand to nod home from five yards out.
The Blues didn’t let the early set-back daunt them and began building up play with big spells of possession. And their best chance came in the 27th minute when 30 seconds of madness saw the ball whizz past the face of the JDT goal three times before Chhetri’s strike took a bit off the crossbar on its way out.
But the skipper did have his goal in the 41st minute after Eugeneson Lyngdoh swung in a sublime corner that Chhetri sent into goal at the far post with a smartly flicked header, beating Mohammed Izham all ends up.
Buoyed by the equaliser, Bengaluru refused to let half-time kill the tempo as Chhetri, Vineeth and Eugene kept causing all sorts of trouble for the JDT defence. But the buzz at the Fortress turned into a deafening roar when Chhetri picked his moment in the 66th minute to send home a screamer from 30 yards out as Bengaluru finally got the lead they deserved.
Juan capped off a dominant performance and put the battle to bed when he rose to head home a free kick from Lyngdoh in the 76th minute.