Bengaluru F.C went down fighting as they put up a spirited performance against Johor FC also known as Johor Darul Ta’azim, at the Larkin Stadium, Malaysia. The 2-1 loss sees the Blues eliminated from the AFC Champions League’s preliminary round. However, Ashley Westwood are not entirely out of the Asian arena but they do find themselves going down a level to the group stages of the AFC Cup.
C.K Vineeth Drops To The Bench
One of the heroes of the 4-0 win against Royal Wahingdoh, C.K Vineeth dropped to the bench. Bengaluru F.C manager Ashley Westwood went with a traditional 4-4-2 formation, with Chhuantea Fanai being the notable inclusion. Josh Walker was back in his role as holding midfielder at the base of the midfield unit.
Johor F.C manager Bojan Hodak too opted to go in with a traditional formation. Singapore international Hariss Harun was deployed as holding midfielder with Junior Eldstal and Fadhli Shas deployed in attack. The lineup was completed with the deployment of Farizal Marlias in goal.
Bengaluru FC Start Strong
The Blues walked onto the Larkin Stadium in what was perhaps their most important fixture in the season. Sensing that history was there to be made, Westood’s Blue army began attacking the very core of the Johor defence. With full backs Chhuantea and Rino Anto probing and making meaningful runs on the fringes of the touchline, the Johor defensive unit had their hands full.
John Johnson Rattles The Woodwork
Known for his strength and aerial prowess, John Johnson posed a serious threat in set pieces. Having missed his first header with a third of the first half played, the big Englishman was keen to make up for his previous chance. Josh Walker’s teasing floater found the head of Johnson, whose header smashed the crossbar, thus denying Bengaluru FC a goal that they would have richly deserved.
The first half however came to a disappointing 0-0 conclusion with a few low intensity chances from both sides.
Harris Harun Gives Johor FC 1-0 Lead
Harris Harun, the Singapore international from Johor, was quiet for most of the first half, but scored the first goal of the tie courtesy a header with 47 minutes gone. The goal prompted yet another wave of attacks from the home side. A long ball from Harris almost fell for substitute Diaz, but John Johnson’s aerial prowess was once again on show as the big Bengaluru defender cleared the danger, despite receiving a blow on his head that led to a gush of blood.
Eugeneson’s Late Late Show
With half an hour left to play, Westwood brought on Robin Singh and C.K Vineeth. Their impact was almost instantaneous. Robin Singh found himself squandering a prime chance as his left footed effort on goal went wide resulting in a goal kick.
With time running out, Westwood went for broke as he threw in Siam Hanghal. The lanky midfielder began playing as the enforcer in midfield. With only injury time left to play, Eugeneson Lyngdoh found himself on the score sheet through a direct corner kick. His in-swinging corner found its way past Johor FC custodian Farizal Marlias, much to the shock of the players and the crowd alike.
Suppiah Chanturu Strikes To Seal Victory
As the match went into extra time, Malaysian striker Suppiah Chanturu celebrated his first goal for the club with a close range strike, giving Ralte absolutely no chance. Although the Blues had a few significant chances, they failed to bear fruit resulting in Johor FC securing qualification to the playoffs of the AFC Champions League.
Leaving aside the heartache of a close but significant loss, Ashley Westwood would have certainly been proud of his the performance of his Blue Army. Having said that, Bengaluru FC now find themselves challenging for the AFC Cup and will need to find a way to win such matches to display their pedigree.