Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made a crucial save to prevent a heavier loss, as Bengaluru FC went down 1-0 to FC Istiklol in Wednesday night’s AFC Cup Inter-Zone final 1st leg, at Hisor Central Stadium, Hisor.
The former East Bengal goalie transferred from Norwegian club Stabaek in the summer. On his debut, he kept a clean-sheet against DPR Korea’s 4.25 SC in Bengaluru.
Wednesday’s game was only Gurpreet’s third appearance with his new team and without some crucial saves on either side of the break from the 25-year-old, the side would have been 3 or 4 goals down.
Istiklol of Tajikistan were the runners up of the 2015 AFC Cup and were coming off a 5-0 win in their 16th and final league match of the season over the weekend, they are also unbeaten in 24 competitive games in the 2017 season so far.
Meanwhile Bengaluru, the last edition runners-up, were playing only their third game since the 2017 ISL draft.
Bengaluru had started strongly, defending with calm and pegging Istiklol back with swift counter attacks.
Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev created an opportunity for Russian striker Dmitry Barkov but his header was latched onto by Gurpreet inside the opening 15 minutes.
A solitary strike in the 27th minute by Dmitri Barkov who headed home after a cross from skipper Fathuloev, gave Istiklol the advantage over the Blues, after taking advantage of a lapse in focus from Bengaluru.
The visitors had 63 per cent possession but failed to string together a dangerous goal scoring opportunity throughout the match. Bengaluru interestingly had only had two shots at target compared to Istiklol’s seven.
During the final quarter there was lots of action as both sides went all-out attack. Just before the whistle, Udanta set on a solo run. His powerful drive was saved by the keeper and the rebound fell for Chhetri whose shot was clearly handled inside the box by a defender. However, the referee waived play-on despite multiple protests by the Blues
Bengaluru now host Istiklol in the second leg on October 18 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.