By Shoubhik Mukhopadhyay,
AIFF Media Team
DOHA: Air Force Club, as the first club from Iraq, beat JSW Bengaluru FC by a solitary goal to nil at the Qatar Sports Club to lift the coveted AFC Cup. Hammadi Ahmed tapped the winner in the 70th minute to take the AFC Cup home for his team.
The AFC Cup final, which started amidst a huge roar from the stands, was mostly a midfield battle during the first ten minutes when both teams tried to settle in and not to concede an early goal. Air Force Club came very close to scoring their first goal in the 8th minute but a communication gap among their attackers saw the chance abegging.
In the 11th minute, Rino Anto, who’s renowned for bombing lethal pass from the right flank, floated his signature long cross but none could convert the chance eventually.
The attacking trio of Air Force Club comprising of Hammadi Ahmed, Amjed Radhi and Humam Tareq kept the Bengaluru FC defenders busy throughout but the Blues’ defenders carried out their defensive duty with utmost expertise.
The Iraqi coach opted for an early change in the 27th minute when he introduced the fresh pair of legs of Osama Ali Mohammed at the expense of Humam Tareq.
On the half-hour mark, Bengaluru FC medio Alwyn George, having outrun the opponent defender, swivelled a tethering cross from the right flank. Albeit Eugeneson Lyngdoh was able to make a contact, his effort went astray.
Air Force Club went very close to scoring again but Alwyn Geroge and John Johnson kept them at bay.
There was no difference between the teams at the half-time.
After the changeover, Air Force Club continued to push Bengaluru FC defence further but the Blues showed great mettle to keep their goal unscathed.
In the 55th minute, Sunil Chhetri tried to sneak in from the left and his cheeky pass found out an unmarked Eugene in the box but his shot was blocked by the defence.
After the hour-mark, Ralte staged a picturesque save to keep his team on the fight when he threw himself to his left to grab a volley by Amjed Radhi.
Two minutes later, to instil some blistering pace in the attacking third, Albert Roca introduced Len Doungel and Udanta Singh at the expenses of Nishu Kumar and Alwyn George respectively.
In the 67th minute, JSW Bengaluru FC earned their first corner. Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Cameron Watson combined well but the long cross could not be converted eventually.
Three minutes later, Amjed Radhi outfoxed JSW Bengaluru FC defenders to find an unmarked Hammadi Ahmed in the box who faced little problem to tap the first goal of the match, eventually the only goal to make the difference between the two sides.
Udanta Singh and Sunil Chhetri tried to combine well towards the end of the game but the panache in the final third was missing for the Blues tonight.
Ten minutes to the final whistle, Roca introduced the fresh pair of legs of Salam Ranjan Singh at the expense of Alvaro Rubio to find more space in the opponent half.
CK Vineeth got one of the best chances tonight one minute to the final whistle but he failed to pull it off.
In the additional minutes, JSW Bengaluru FC had a huge penalty shout as John Johnson fell in the 6-yard box, but the referee hardly paid a heed to the appeal.
Towards the last phase of the game, John Johnson and Juanan was seen to join the attackers to find the elusive equaliser but their efforts were seen off proficiently by their opponents.
(Picture Courtesy: JSW Bengaluru FC)