Ashgabat, Turkmenistan: Carles Cuadrat’s Bengaluru FC are confident of climbing the proverbial mountain when they take on Altyn Asyr at the Kopetdag Stadium, on Wednesday, for a spot in the Inter-Zone final of the AFC Cup. Having suffered a 3-2 defeat at home, the Blues will need to win by a two-goal margin in the capital in what could be a comeback for the ages.
Though Cuadrat admitted that conceding three goals at home was far from the ideal scenario going into a second leg, he was confident that the late fightback at the Kanteerava has given his side belief and a chance against tough opponents. “Altyn Asyr is a good team who have been doing well in this competition. When they came to Bengaluru, they were in the middle of their league commitments and you could tell by how fit they were. They took advantage of the options they had in front of our goal. It was a bit of a shock to go down by three goals at home but we slowly took control of things in the second half and we had enough chances to put them in trouble. We have two goals that make us believe we have a shot at going ahead in this competition,” said the Spaniard while addressing the media on Tuesday.
The team from Turkmenistan didn’t have much of the ball in the first leg, but they made their reliance on the counter attack matter, with clinical finishing. Cuadrat said the early goals were a tad bit disappointing because they knew how the visitors would tackle the tie. “When you’re down a goal at home you want to get right back into it and that’s where we conceded another one on the counter attack. We have been watching Altyn Asyr’s games in the AFC Cup and we know they don’t really have a lot of possession during the game. Most games they usually have around 45 percent possession. They know they must defend well and punish the other teams on the counter. So, it wasn’t a surprise.”
The Blues will do well to be wary of the threat that the hosts possess through Altymyrat Annadurdyyew and Wahyt Orazsahedow, both of who were on target in Bengaluru. Winger Myrat Yagsyyew, who had to be substituted early in the game owing to a groin injury, remains a doubtful starter for the fixture.
The biggest positive that Bengaluru FC can take from the defeat and into the second leg is the attitude they displayed even after conceding three goals. The attack switched gears in the second half and had Altyn Asyr defending in numbers. The Blues were left feeling hard done-by after two stonewall penalty decisions were waived away by the referee. But goals from Rahul Bheke and Erik Paartalu were justice to the kind of turnaround they orchestrated.
Harmanjot Khabra, who missed the game with illness, has made the trip to Turkmenistan and it needs to be seen if he will have a part to play on Wednesday. Cuadrat also hinted at a possible rejig in the way he approaches the game and the team he rolls out. “We weren’t happy with the way things went in the first game and we would like to fix that. If it means us having to change and reshuffle, we will. In the end, we don’t have an option but to keep trying things that can keep us alive in the competition,” he said.
The winner of the tie will go on to face North Korean side 4.25 SC in the Inter-Zone final after they cruised past Singapore’s Home United FC 11-1 on aggregate in the other semifinal clash.
The game kicks off at 5 pm IST.