I-League champions Bengaluru FC today booked their maiden semifinal berth in the AFC Cup football tournament on 1-0 aggregate against Tampines Rovers of Singapore after the second leg of the quarterfinals tie ended in a goal-less draw here.
Bengaluru had beaten Tampines 1-0 in the first leg in Bangalore last week, courtesy CK Vineeth’s strike.
Bengaluru thus became only the third side from India to have qualified for the semifinals in the AFC Cup, the continent’s second tier club competition. Dempo and East Bengal have achieved the feat earlier in 2008 and 2013 respectively.
Last year, Bengaluru had bowed out of the tournament at Round of 16 stage.
For Bengaluru coach Alberto Roca, a former assistant manager of FC Barcelona, it has been a fairytale start in his stint as this was his second competitive match in charge of the side.
It was a disciplined tactical performance deployed by Roca that saw Bengaluru hold out for a goalless draw against Tampines at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Tampines went for the jugular from the start as they sought to overturn a one-goal first leg deficit. Despite having a lion’s share of possessions and shots, they found Arminder Singh unbeatable in goal as the Bengaluru custodian produced a fine showing between the posts.
After losing defender Shakir Hamzah to a suspected cheekbone fracture midway through the second half, Tampines rallied in their attempt to at least force extra time but were unable to find a way through the Bengaluru defence in the end.
Led by India star Sunil Chhetri, Bengaluru soaked a wave of attacks from Tampines in the first session dominated by the home side.
Bengaluru did better in the second half and created a few scoring chances while its defence remained rock solid to thwart the Tampines attack led by former Aesenal and LIverpool player Jermaine Pennant.
Bengaluru now set up a re-match against defending champions Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia in the semi-finals. The two sides were clubbed in the same group in the group stage. Bengaluru had lost both the home and away matches against the Malaysian side in the group stage.