Ashgabat, Turkmenistan: Carles Cuadrat’s Bengaluru FC bowed out of Asian competition after a 2-0 loss (5-2 agg.) to Altyn Asyr FK in the second leg of their AFC Cup Inter-Zone semifinal, at the Kopetdag Stadium, in Ashgabat, on Wednesday. Second half goals from Altymyrat Annadurdyyev and Vahyt Orazsakhedov settled the tie in favour of the hosts after the Blues found the going tough in attack.
Earlier, Cuadrat rung in one change to the side that faced the Turkmenistan champions at home as Boithang Haokip dropped to the bench in favour of a returning Harmanjot Khabra. Rino Anto and Rahul Bheke joined Spaniard Juanan Gonzalez at the back as Nishu Kumar was pushed forward to add impetus to the Blues’ attack.
After a spell of holding fort at the back, Bengaluru pushed high up with Miku and Sunil Chhetri creating back-to-back chances with less than half an hour on the clock. While the duo’s efforts went wide, Bengaluru gained momentum and had spells of possession. Udanta Singh and Nishu, attacking from either flank, had attempts of their own, but none dangerous to trouble Mamed Orazmuhamedov in the Altyn goal.
The Blues had their best chance of the first period in the 38th minute when Miku fed Chhetri on the counter, but the skipper’s foray into the rival box was met with a strong tackle from an Altyn Asyr defender. Shouts for a penalty were waved away as referee Turki Al-Khudair chose to book the Blues’ number 11 instead.
While the first half was an even affair, the hosts struck twice early on in the second to effectively seal the tie. Annadurdyyev scored the opener in the 50th minute with a strike from the edge of the box that BFC ’keeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu struggled to get his hand to.
Striker Vahyt Orazsakhedov then added another with his third goal of the tie, tapping home from close after defender Mekan Saparov’s strike from distance cannoned off the upright, making it 2-0 on the day and 5-2 on aggregate.
As the Blues kept on pushing ahead in search of the elusive goal, it was Altyn Asyr goalkeeper Mamed who pulled off two saves to keep the score unchanged. Miku, who managed to create a yard for himself, had his shot from distance palmed away in the 65th, before Chhetri’s shot was tipped onto the vertical.
The Blues return to Bengaluru, where they will prepare for the opener of the 2018-19 Indian Super League, against Chennaiyin FC, at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on September 30th.