‘West Block Blues’ are the real advantage, given the away goal counts only if the scoreboard reads 0-0 after 90 minutes.

The Kanteerava showdown Bengaluru FC on the cusp of making history
news Football Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 15:57

Five years ago, one would have not thought that a team could win two I-league titles in its first three seasons. Bengaluru FC has achieved all this and more.

Despite a change in the backroom staff with the shock departure of Ashley Westwood, the fortunes of the club have changed for the better since Albert Roca took over in July. 

On Wednesday, the Blues stand a chance of creating history by being the first ever Indian team to reach the finals of the AFC Cup, the second-tier Asian club competition.

Only two other Indian teams have reached the semis of this competition before this. East Bengal in 2015 and Dempo SC in 2008.

Bengaluru FC start the second leg at home against the defending champions with the thinnest of advantages (one away goal), courtesy Eugeneson Lyngdoh’s equalizer. . For the uninitiated, the raucous cheers of the ‘West Block Blues’ are the real advantage, given only a goalless draw will work in BFC’s favour to make the away goal count.

 No wonder, Roca said, “It is very clear for us that this is a good opportunity so we have to make good on our home advantage," a day before the game.

“Circumstances have changed a bit and it will be a very tough mission, but we will be ready for that and show that we are a competitive side at this level. Our intention is to go ahead and we have to score one or two goals to get to the final,” the former Barcelona assistant coach added.

Opponent

Standing in their way are defending champions Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) previously known as PKENJ FC. Coached by Argentine Mario Gomez, a former international himself, the team has already won the Malaysia Super League, Charity Shield and FA Cup titles this season.

But their 3-2 win aggregate against Hong Kong’s South China AA was far from convincing as was their one-all draw with the Indian champions, in the first leg against BFC at the iconic Larkin Stadium.

What works for Bengaluru

Moreover, three of Gomez’s first choice players including the strike pair of Pereyra Diaz and Martin Lucero are suspended. However, Roca cautioned not to consider the replacements lightly since they play for the Malaysian national team.

Roca is touted to go with an unconventional 5-3-2 or a 3-5-2 formation. Given a lack of quality strikers eligible to play, JDT will be forced to play with a no 9 upfront and that might work well in favour of the blues. 

The West Blocks Blues are likely to be boosted with support from unusual quarters at the Kanteerava Stadium with fans of other Indian clubs, notably of Mohun Bagan in their staple green and maroon. The Bengaluru club officially released  a letter ahead of Wednesday’s clash asking Mohan Bagan for a ‘ceasefire of sorts’ (given the newfound rivalry) and soliciting its support.

Not only MB, the club has also asked supporters of East Bengal, Aizawl FC and Shillong Lajong FC to cheer for the cause of Indian football.

The sight of the Indian tricolour at the Kanteerava on Wednesday night will come as no surprise, as it was in Jakarta in 2003 when Indian football fans stood united to support East Bengal on their way to ASEAN Cup glory.

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