Bengaluru FC rode Thongkhosiem Haokip’s brace to quell the challenge of Maldives’ TC Sports Club 3-2 in the first leg of a thrilling AFC play-off game at the National stadium in Male on Tuesday.
Albert Roca’s side had to stave off a late resurgence from the hosts after having conceded a 2-0 advantage at one stage but would be happy to come away victorious from a difficult encounter ahead of the home leg next week.
After a barren first half in which both teams struggled to find any rhythm, Bengaluru FC took the lead in the 52nd minute Haokip nodded home a Toni Dovale free-kick which Rahul Bheke managed to deflect towards him. And when Erik Paartulu scored the second with another header off a Dovale set-piece in the 69th minute, it looked like the visitors were in control.
However, Bengaluru players dropped their guard for a while and paid the price for it as the hosts scored twice in two minutes. Maldivian clubs top scorer Antolii Vlasichev first reduced the margin in the 71st minute by slotting home his fifth goal of the campaign and Ibrahim Mahudhee then pounced on an defensive error to shoot past Lalthuammawia Ralte to restore parity.
But Haokip had the last laugh as he found the net in the 78th minute with a scorcher to beat opposition goalkeeper Ibrahim Nadeem from outside the box.