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Struggling BFC seek AFC Cup redemption

Bengaluru: Sunil Chhetri walked towards the fans, many of whom had flown to Doha just to see their team play, with his hands folded in appreciation and apology. This was back in November, when on a balmy night Bengaluru FC went down 1-0 to Air Force Club in the AFC Cup final.

To reach the final was in itself a feat never before seen in Indian football. They had set the benchmark and penned their name in the annals of Indian football. Again.

At that time, BFC had a spring in their steps; an air of silent confidence. They were the talk of the country, at least within the ever increasing population who follow the domestic football.

A little over four months removed, they are still the talk of the country, albeit in a different way. Football, as in life, is not without a shot at redemption.

Following their largely abject performances in the l-League so far, BFC will hope for some reversal of fortunes when they face familiar foes Mohun Bagan in the AFC Cup Group E encounter at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Tuesday.

The opening tie of the tournament has perhaps never had such significance for an Indian side. The structural changes made in the tournament means only one team from this group will advance to the next round. Adding yet another hurdle for Indian sides who have ambitions beyond the domestic level.

Having played out a draw just three days ago, both sides have more than adequate measure of each other. While Saturday’s encounter saw Bagan play a tad defensive and attack by bypassing the midfield at times and using the flanks, it will be interesting to see if Sanjoy Sen will change his approach in the Cup competition.

Meanwhile, the home side are sure to continue their possession based style but a rather dour performance by Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Lenny Rodrigues, who managed to look both busy and lost simultaneously, in midfield will only add more frown lines for Albert Roca.

Defensively the last game was a good one for both sides and it might just take a moment of skill from the forwards to affect the scoreline. With the likes of Chhetri, Udanta Singh and CK Vineeth for the home side and Sony Norde, Darry Duffy and Katsumi Yusa for the visitors, skill is not in short supply.

The fact that the league title looks all but gone for BFC means the priority will be the cup competitions. “Tomorrow is a competition that we love. There is surely more motivation to do well and even try and go further than we did last time. A good result tomorrow would also be a big positive for us going forward,” said Roca on the eve of the tie. With the piling fixtures adding to teams’ woes, this tie will put to test both physical and mental strengths of the teams.



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