BENGALURU: On a day when Bengaluru FC were beginning a new journey, they were ready for a tough fight against North Korea’s April 25 SC. But after the initial period, as the rain started pouring, a new-look BFC made it look easy and registered a 3-0 victory in the AFC Cup Inter-zonal semifinal at Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Wednesday.
April 25 was a relatively unknown entity. With a squad still settling in, BFC coach Albert Roca had less than 30 days to prepare for the match. Before the game, he had modest expectations of either of 1-0 or 2-1 scoreline. He had his wish fulfilled just 32 minutes into the game.
Udanta Singh, playing as centre forward, was brought down by custodian Ri Kang in the penalty box and skipper Sunil Chhetri converted from the spot in Panenka style. As the first half came to an end, the visitors were getting back in the match. Their top scorer Kim Yu-song, who came off the bench, tested Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the 49th minute, but the goalkeeper managed to keep the scoreline unchanged.
As the visitors tried regaining control, it started raining in buckets and made conditions tough. Udanta switched flanks, and with his pace beat defenders and scored a neat goal in the 50th minute. It looked done and dusted for the visitors as they sat back and soaked in the pressure. The conditions were such that the ball wasn’t going through. “Our strategy was to sit back and attack on counters, as building play from the back wasn’t possible,” Chhetri revealed.
Lenny Rodrigues struck the final nail in April 25 coffin when he netted in the 78th minute. Ri Kang, after two successful saves, failed to read the ball following a splash of water and conceded. Visiting coach Hwang Yong-song said it was difficult to play and Chhetri's team made it more difficult for them. “The conditions were very difficult, especially for defenders. Our forwards failed to attack and our defenders couldn’t prevent their fast attacks,” he said.
Roca was pleased with the performances of the new players, but warned that the return leg on September 13 would be difficult. “The scoreline doesn’t reflect their ability. I’m happy that my players played an intelligent game at the right moment. But there is no place for complacency as it would be difficult in Pyongyang,” he said.