Bengaluru FC take on Al Quwa Al-Jawiya in the final of the AFC Cup 2016, with many calling it the ‘biggest game’ in the club history of Indian football. The Blues are only 3 years old, but for such a young club, they already have a good Asian pedigree, riding on a strong Indian backbone of Sunil Chhetri, Eugenson Lyngdoh and CK Vineeth to go far in the competition.
While Bengaluru have blazed a trail in their quest for glory, there have been Indian clubs who have succeeded in the AFC Cup before, having gone deep into the knockout stages of the competition.
Here are the 5 best performances by Indian clubs in the AFC Cup.
#5 East Bengal (2004) – Quarterfinals
The inaugural edition of the 2004 AFC Cup had two clubs from Indian, with East Bengal gaining their spot as the champions of the 2002/03 National Football League, while Mahindra United also qualified as runners-up. East Bengal were fresh from winning the 2003 ASEAN Club Championship and were no mugs in Asian competition going into the AFC Cup.
The West Bengal side stormed through the group stages against Singaporean, Malaysian and Maldivian opposition of Geylang United, Negeri Sembilan and Island FC. With a formidable frontline of Cristiano Junior (5), Mike Okoro (4) and Bhaichung Bhutia (2) scoring 11 goals amongst themselves, East Bengal topped Group E with 13 points.
The format of the AFC Cup meant that 8 of the 18 clubs in the group stages immediately went into the quarterfinals, where East Bengal were drawn with Syrian champions Al Jaish. After a tense first leg in the Salt Lake stadium finished 0-0, the Red and Gold Brigade faltered in Damascus, going down 3-0 to the eventual champions of the competition.