Bheke makes his presence felt

Bheke emerging as a force in BFC's defence

Bheke makes his presence felt

For a few who know North Korea's 4.25 SC, it was a surprise that the team could not make it past Bengaluru FC in the inter-zonal semfinal of the AFC Cup this season.

Yes, they conceded three goals in the first leg and barely looked threatening in the final third. But a team that had been on a menacing force at home — scoring seven goals and conceding just one in two home games — there were hopes that the North Korean side could turn the table on Bengaluru. And the manner in which the game progressed at the May Day stadium in Pyongyang, it seemed like the North Koreans were out with a plan.

Lettting O Hyok-Chol and Kim Kuk-Born bombard the flanks, the thought was clear — set up goal scoring chances for their target men Kim Yu-Song and Rim Chol-Min inside the Bengaluru box. Though this plan worked to some extent, especially from the right where Bengaluru's Nishu Kumar was taken for a run, nothing could find the desired result.

While goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu ran away with all the plaudits on the day for an excellent show in the Bengaluru goal, there was another hero for Bengaluru that day, Rahul Bheke. The 26-year-old quietly went about doing his job. "Our instruction was clear, defend the three-goal advantage," said Bheke recalling that match.

"They had a plan and so did we. We knew that their strength was in their wings and the crosses that they can deliver. And we had to be up to the task. It's just not me, I think the five of us (four defenders and the goalkeeper) did very well."

But now, that's past. Bengaluru are in the inter-zonal final and on Wednesday, they will need something special if they are to overturn a one-goal deficit against Istkilol FC to make it to their second successive AFC Cup final. "It's a massive game. Games like this don't come often. I don't want to put a foot wrong," the Mumbaikar said.

"The preparations are going on as planned. It's a must-win game, but we can't let that (pressure) catch on to us. We will have to be very smart against them. We will have to be compact and score as early as possible. Hopefully things go as per plans."

Having played the Tajikistan champions in the first leg, Bengaluru have an idea how their opponents would line-up on Wednesday. But with the suspended trio of defender Artem Baranovskyi, and midfielders David Mawutor and Amirbek Juraboev returning to the mix, things could get much harder for Bengaluru.

"They prefer to play on counter. And with a goal advantage, playing away from home, we don't think that's going to change much," stated the defender.

"We will have to lead the attack. It's a goal advantage. If we can score early and put them under pressure, we have a good chance."

DH News Service



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