Bengaluru FC hold Johor Darul Ta'zin, earn crucial away goal in first leg of AFC Cup semi-final
Johor Bahru: A stunning left-footed strike by Eugeneson Lyngdoh earned Bengaluru FC a 1-1 draw and a crucial away goal in their AFC Cup first leg semi-final match against defending champions Johor Darul Ta'zim in Malaysia on Wednesday.
Lyngdoh fired in a left-footed screamer from well outside the box to the left corner of the Johor net in the 57th minute after Jorge Pereyra Diaz had put the home side ahead in the 3rd minute at the Tan Sri Dato' Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium.
Wednesday's draw would give an advantage to the I-League champions in their quest for a historic final appearance in the AFC Cup, the continent's second tier club competition. Bengaluru play their second leg of the semi-finals on 19 October at home at Kanteerava Stadium.
No Indian club had ever made it to the final of the AFC Cup. Bengaluru FC is only the third Indian club to have made it to the semi-finals of the AFC Cup, after Dempo (2008) and East Bengal (2013).
This match was the third time these two sides met in this edition of the tournament. Bengaluru and Johor were clubbed together in the group stage and the Malaysian giants had won both the home and away group matches.
But the semi-final was a new day with Bengaluru denying the defending champions the dominance they had during the group stage.
Alberto Roca, who was in charge of Bengaluru for only the third match, went for a high-pressing game in the first session and his charges had better possession of the initial period of the first half though without having a clear look at the opposition goal.
Bengaluru goalkeeper Arminder Singh kept the visitors in contention with a point-blank save to keep out a Martin Lucero header in the 27th minute.
Johor began to take control of the match after the initial period but could not do anything worthwhile as the first 45 minute ended without any goal.
The home side began to press for goal in the second session and Diaz rose higher than anybody to nod the ball home from a Safiq Rahim corner in the 53rd minute.
It looked like that Johor's first goal may break the back of the Bengaluru resistance but Roca's charges had none of it and found the equaliser four minutes later when Lyngdoh sent a screamer into the net from 22 yards to silence the 18,410-strong crowd.
Lyngdoh took possession of the ball midway the Johor half, sidestepped a few opposition defenders before cracking a left footer a few meters outside the 'D' and beat the home side goalkeeper all ends up.
The equaliser lifted the Indian side as they withstood sustained periods of pressure from Johor, especially in the final moments of the game. In the end, Bengaluru came out unscathed to leave Malaysia with a precious away goal and a hard-earned draw.
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Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and hosts Maldives are the other teams in the championship. Each team plays each other once with the top two teams qualifying for the final.