Iraq's Air Force Club dash Bengaluru hopes to win AFC Cup
Doha, Nov 5 (IANS) Bengaluru FC failed to do the jugular as they lost to Iraq's Air Force Club 0-1 in the AFC Cup final here at the Suheim Bin Hamad Stadium on Saturday.
The tournament's top-scorer Hammadi Ahmed scored off Amjed Radhi's spadework in the 71st minute to give his side their first continental title and deny Bengaluru a chance to become the first club from India to win the tourney.
The scoreline was fairly representative of the course of the game, as the Iraqis seemed superior, especially in the livelier second session, when they had greater ball possession, and took more shots at goal, with Hammadi and Amied striking up a fine rhythm on the upfront to keep the Bengaluru defenders on the tenterhooks.
Watched by hundreds of Bengaluru supporters, many of whom had travelled all the way from India, the Sunil Chhetri-led team, however, went all out in a desperate bid to restore parity in the dying minutes, but failed to leave any mark on the goalsheet.
Bengaluru coach Albert Roca made just one change to the team which started against Johor Darul Ta'zim with Lalthuamawia Ralte replacing Amrinder Singh in goal.
For the Air Force Club, 20-year-old explosive left winger Humam Tareq was named on the starting lineup after recovering on time from his injury.
But the Iraqi side missed veteran defender Samal Saeed and 19-year old midfled dynamo Resan Booniyan due to suspensions. Ahmed Kadhim and Emad Majeed replaced the duo.
Air Force got a break in the 17th minute when Hammadi Ahmed was put through by Radhi down the right hand channel but some good defending by Cameron Watson thwarted the danger.
The blue shirts were dealt a blow in the 26th minute with influential player Humam Tareq failing to continue after picking up a knock, being replaced by Osama Ali.
Bengaluru created more chances in the first half but two good opportunities fell to Air Force.
Hammadi played a part on both occasions, first heading wide from the inside the box, then setting up Amjed Radhi who beat the offside trap but failed to find Emad with Ralte doing well to smother the ball.
Bengaluru's only chance was headed wide by Eugeneson Lyngdoh from a Alwyn George cross.
Radhi got the best chance of the game five minutes into the second period but the forward fired over the bar after receiving the ball well first time.
At the other end, Chhetri found acres of space on the left and squared the ball to Eugeneson on the edge of the box but the latter's attempt was blocked.
The India captain had another chance to rattle the back of the net from a corner but found the back of a defender as he wrapped his foot around the ball.
Roca made twin substitutions, injecting pace in the form of nippy players Seminlen Doungel and Udanta Singh with Nishu Kumar and George making way.
But the changes went up in smoke as minutes later, Air Force took the lead after a barrage of attacks. Radhi did all the good work near the box to set up Hammadi who scored his 16th goal of the competition by sliding it into the net.