A valiant effort from JSW Bengaluru FC went in vain as they bowed out of the running for a place in the group stages of the 2017 AFC Champions League, after a 2-1 loss to Jordanian champions Al Wehdat SC at the King Abdullah International Stadium in Amman, Jordan, on Tuesday. Skipper Sunil Chhetri scored what was to be a consolation for the Blues after goals from Ahmed Wridat and Baha Faisal gave Wehdat a 2-0 lead.
Albert Roca’s 5-2-3 had Johnson, Juan, Ralte, Khabra and Udanta in defence with Lenny and Cameron in midfield, while Chhetri, Lyngdoh and Vineeth formed the Blues’ attack.
Content to sit back and soak in the pressure, Bengaluru pulled off the plan flawlessly in the first half, refusing to give Wehdat any clear chance at goals. For all the half chances that the hosts did create, Amrinder Singh was at his safest best, keeping things clean with the collections.
For all their resistance in a smart first half, Bengaluru conceded soon after the restart when Wridat scored from close after the ball came off the Blues defence and fell at the No. 9’s feet in the box. But just as the Blues were looking to put behind the disadvantage and chase the game, Sena Ralte conceded a needless penalty, bringing Baha Faisal in the box with the ball nowhere near the two. Faisal stepped up and smashed his take to Amrinder’s right even though the ’keeper guessed it right.
Left with a mountain to climb, Bengaluru refused to cave in to the pressure. And their bravery was rewarded in the 68th minute when Chhetri rose to nod home Watson’s take from a Bengaluru corner to stun the home crowd into silence. Sensing the need to add pace in the hunt for an equaliser, Roca threw in Mandar Rao Dessai for Lyngdoh.
Bengaluru’s best chance for an equaliser came in the 83rd minute when Udanta, after being picked by Chhetri, crossed in a delightful ball only to see Vineeth to hit over from close.
The Blues join Maldivian side Maziya S&RC, Bangladesh’s Abahani FC and the winner of the South Zone play-off between clubs from India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives, in Group E of the AFC Cup.
(Bengaluru FC Press Release)