Ceres Negros FC ended its remarkable run in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup after settling for a 1-1 draw in the second leg of the Interzone semifinals and surrendering a 1-5 result on aggregate to FC Istiklol on Tuesday night at the Panaad Park and Stadium in Bacolod City.
Bengaluru FC won 3-0 on aggregate after the first leg win. They now face Tajikistan's FC Istiklol, the 2015 finalists, in the two-legged Inter-Zone Finals.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the 77th minute of a rather tame game compared to the first leg, produced an excellent save to deny the North Korean side from scoring, and the game finished as it had started.
2017 AFC Cup will see India's Bengaluru FC pit their wits against Tajikistan's FC Istiklol in the Inter-Zonal final to claim a spot in the grand final of the tournament on November 4th.
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BFC were edged out in terms of possession and chances, but compensated with a stubborn defense as Gurpreet, Juanan Gonzalez, Rahul Bheke, Harmanjot Khabra and Nishu Kumar - who was later replaced by Subhasish Bose - kept the 4.25 SC attack at bay. While the first half saw BFC create a few half chances, most notably through Dovale, the hosts managed to control the game.
Bengaluru were forced to sit deep and defend in the second half as tournament top-scorer Kim Yu Song nearly gave 4.25 SC the lead in the 57th minute with a header, but it was Gurpreet once again who denied the striker.
Taking a three-goal lead into the game, thanks to a dominant win in Bengaluru a little over two weeks ago, the Blues will be eager to book their place in the inter-zonal final. As the game progressed, Hwang Yong Song's side continued to attack and substitute An Il-Bom who came on in the 61st minute, forced the Blues custodian into another brilliant diving save in the 70th. The pressure culminated in another chance in the dying moments of the game, as midfielder Won Song hit the crossbar with an effort from 20-yards out.
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