Champions of Tajikistan stand between Bengaluru and second successive AFC Cup final
AFC Cup 2017: Bengaluru fc vs FC Istiklol Dushanbe
The AFC Cup 2017 is nearing its business end and on Wednesday and the tournament will see its second finalist when Bengaluru FC take on Tajikistan’s FC Istiklol at home in the second leg of the Inter-Zonal final. Iraq’s Air Force Club, the defending champions, will be eagerly watching this tie given that they already reached the grand finale.
Bengaluru fc vs FC Istiklol Dushanbe
Competition: AFC Cup Inter-Zone final 1st leg
Date/Time: Wednesday, September 27, 7:30 pm IST
Venue: Kanteerava stadium, Bengaluru
However, the Tajik champions have an upper hand going into the second leg after their 1-0 win in the first leg at home. While they will be hopeful of getting the job done in India, Istiklol need to be careful of the adverse conditions they might face in Bengaluru. Apart from the fact that Bengaluru FC fans will be their usual vociferous self, it has been raining quite heavily in thecity and wet conditions might affect them like it did for North Korea’s 4.25 SC who fell to a 3-0 defeat against the Blues in the previous round amid peltingrain.
Bengaluru FC: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has been one of the club’s pillars of strength, but one player who revelled in the rain at home against 4.25 and would be itching to make a similar impact again is Harmanjot Khabra.
Khabra was instrumental in setting up the penalty that set BFC on their way, and his role both in overlapping across both flanks was as important as his work in cleaning up in defence. Istiklol would be wary of the threat from the flanks of players such as Chhetri and Udanta, and that’s where Khabra, with his vision and experience, can prove a handful for the Tajikistan team.
FC Istiklol Dushanbe : Istiklol have been one of the most prolific teams in this year’s AFC Cup, and much of that has had to do with forward and Tajikistan international Manuchehr Dzhalilov, who has scored seven of their 20 goals.
Dzhalilov’s goals in the group stages included a hat-trick away to Kazakh team Dordoi Bishkek, and his record in international football of 14 goals in 21 appearances stands as evidence of his ability to find the net with regularity.
Istiklol have thus far scored 20 goals and conceded just five from eight AFC Cup games this season. BFC have scored 10 and conceded six from the same number of matches played.
BFC’s 10 goals have come from eight different scorers, but only Sunil Chhetri (three) has scored more than one. Six of BFC’s goalscorers in this year’s AFC Cup are no longer with the team for the knockout stages of the tournament.
Istiklol have scored at least one goal in every AFC Cup match this season, and also scored four goals in a match three times. The most recent occasion for the Tajikistan league’s reigning champions came in the first leg of the Inter-Zone semi-finals, when they beat Ceres Negros of Philippines 4-0 at home in the first leg in August.
When Bengaluru FC qualified for the 2016 AFC Cup final, they went away to Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia and drew 1-1 in the first leg, before beating the 2015 champions 3-1 at home to qualify for the final. In 2015, Istiklol were beaten 4-0 in their first leg away to Al-Kuwait, but then qualified for the final because FIFA suspended the Kuwait Football Association five days ahead of the return leg in Tajikistan.
Formation : 4-3-3
Nishu, Juanon, Bheke, Khabra
Dimas, Paartalu, Lenny
Chettri, Udanta, Dovale
— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) October 18, 2017
Formation : 3-4-3
Baranovskyi, Davlatmir, Stetsenko
Mawutor, Aliev, Davronov, Muhammadjoni
Dzhalilov, Barkov, Vasiev