Bengaluru fail to qualify for 2020 AFC Cup after losing to Maziya on penalties

Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) side Bengaluru FC beat Maldivian side Maziya S&RC 3-2 in regulation time but were ousted in the subsequent penalty shootout in the second leg of their playoff round tie at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Wednesday. With an away goal in their pocket after losing the reverse fixture 2-1, Bengaluru managed to push the game to penalties after finishing regulation time with an aggregate of 4-4, but couldn’t get past the final barrier. The Maldivian side have now qualified for the group stages of the 2020 AFC Cup, thereby eliminating the defending Hero ISL champions.

The match began on a cautious note, with both teams taking a prudent approach to the game. Ashique Kuruniyan initiated the first attempt after Rino Anto’s cross was tapped on to him. However, the winger’s shot hit the post and went wide. At the half-hour mark, Erik Paartalu attempted a piledriver but the Maziya goalkeeper, Ovays Azizi was quick to make the save.

Four minutes later, another opportunity fell to Deshorn Brown, but the shot floated safely over the crossbar. Towards the end of the half, Bengaluru kept pressing for that elusive opening goal and won a free-kick just outside the penalty box. Francisco Borges took the final effort of the first half, but his effort went harmlessly over the goalkeeper.

Both teams continued their cautious approach in the second half as well, with Maziya looking to protect their one-goal lead over Bengaluru. At 53 minutes, Sunil Chhetri was brought on for Udanta Singh following an injury lay-out. The talismanic forward proved to be the lucky charm for his side as Brown opened the scoring for Bengaluru five minutes later. Youngster Suresh Wangjam was the orchestrator, as he ran in from the left flank and cut it in for the Jamaican to smash the goal home.

The away side pulled one back in the 74th minute after Maziya’s Ibrahim tapped in a cross from the right-wing. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was unable to hold onto the ball which crept into the net. However, six minutes later, Chhetri acted as super-sub and slotted home Bengaluru’s second goal of the night after pouncing on Borges’s deflected effort, thus, taking the game to extra-time.

The extra-time was a topsy-turvy affair on both ends as Cornelius Stewart scored the second away goal for Maziya. Rahul Bheke lost possession to his opponents, with Steward collecting a defence-splitting pass and slotting it home past Gurpreet.

When all seemed over, Bengaluru talisman Chhetri pulled one back in the final minute of extra time. Peter Planic was adjudged to have handled the ball outside the box and the following free-kick was beautifully converted by the skipper to take his side into the decisive penalty shootout.

However, the feeling was short-lived as the visitors won 3-2 on penalties with Rahul Bheke, Brown and Parag Shrivas all missing their penalties. Though Gurpreet denied two of Maziya’s players to keep it a tight and entertaining affair till the very end, Bengaluru had to eventually bow out of the AFC Cup 2020 qualifiers.

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