Bengaluru FC advanced to the Inter Zone finals of the AFC Cup as they beat North Korean side 4.25 SC 3-0 on aggregate.
Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who joined Bengaluru last month only, was the hero for the visiting side as he saved a penalty kick in the 75th minute of the match. Istiklol had beaten Ceres Negros FC of Philippines on 5-1 aggregate in the other Inter-Zone Semifinals.
Bengaluru got just a day of training before the match but held fort to ensure a clean sheet.
However, Dimas Delgado, Lenny Rodrigues and Harmanjot Khabra who all picked up bookings during the first leg will have to be careful as another booking will find them suspended from the inter-zonal final should Bengaluru make it through.
BFC will travel to Tajikistan on September 27 before hosting Istiklol in the decisive second leg at Sree Kanteerava Stadium on October 18.
2017 AFC Cup will see India's Bengaluru FC pit their wits against Tajikistan's FC Istiklol in the Inter-Zonal final to claim a spot in the grand final of the tournament on November 4th.
In the end, goals from Chhetri, Udanta and Lenny Rodrigues in the first-leg proved to be too high a barrier for the North Korean side to overcome. While the first half saw BFC create a few half chances, most notably through Dovale, the hosts managed to control the game. With a sizeable turnout egging for the home side to attack, the Blues did well to arrive at the break with the scores unchanged.
BFC were forced to sit deep and defend in the second half as tournament top-scorer Kim nearly gave 4.25 SC the lead in the 57th minute with a header, but it was Gurpreet who denied the striker yet again. However, Gurpreet dived to his right denying midfielder Ri Hyong Jin's effort from 12 yards.
Taking a three-goal lead into the game, thanks to a dominant win in Bengaluru a little over two weeks ago, the Blues will be eager to book their place in the inter-zonal final. The pressure culminated in another chance in the dying moments of the game, as midfielder Won Song hit the crossbar with an effort from 20-yards out.