Bengaluru, Dec 14: The year 2016 will go down in history as Bengaluru FC's momentous year as they became the first Indian club to reach the finals of Asia's premier competition AFC Cup.
All leagues special site
Even though, the boys in blue failed to lift the coveted trophy losing to Iraq's AirForce Club by a goal to nil in the final, Bengaluru FC can take all the credit they want from such a stellar and consistent performance throughout the year.
The JSW owned side also lifted their second I-League trophy within 3 years of their inception by beating the premier Indian clubs comprehensively.
The likes of Kingfisher East Bengal and Mohun Bagan had put up stiff competition to the Blues, but Ashley Westwood's 'blue army' bulldozed past all obstacles and emerged national champions. As the Blues loyalist would love to say, 'they won back what was rightfully theirs'.
The year started with Bengaluru FC placed in a moderately difficult group in the AFC Cup. They had reached the round of 16 last season and thus, had a target of bettering their record.
The Blues' performance in the group stage was decent enough to send them to the knock-out stage. They stood second in the group behind Johor Darul Ta'zim a team they would decimate in the semis.
In the round of 16, the Ashley Westwood led side traveled away to face a strong South Asian side with great pedigree, Kitchee SC. After an exciting 90 minutes of football, Bengaluru emerged victorious with the scoreline flashing 3-2 in favour of the Indian club.
With the curtains falling over the Indian football season, British manager Ashley Westwood parted ways with Bengaluru after a 3-year-old association.
In came Spanish manager Albert Roca to fill in the boots of Westwood. Roca was a known face in international football who served as an assistant manager to famous Dutch coach Frank Rijkaard at FC Barcelona, Galatasaray and Saudi Arabia national side.
Roca stepped in as the head coach of Bengaluru FC with a bag full of experience to share with the talented footballers at the club.
Bengaluru FC fans started 'dreaming a new dream' with a brand new man at the helm of affairs.
Albert Roca's first assignment was against Singapore's Tampines Rovers in the quarter-final of the AFC Cup 2016.
They won the opening fixture convincingly at home and managed a draw at Singapore to become the third Indian side to reach the semis after Dempo SC and Kingfisher East Bengal FC.
But unlike the predecessors, who failed to go past the last four stage, Bengaluru FC had other plans to surprise the Indian football fans.
In the semis, they were pitted against a strong Johor Darul Ta'zim who had an unbeaten record against the Indians.
BFC managed to hold Johor in the away fixture making the return leg a mouth-watering clash.
Thousands of BFC loyalists flocked the Shree Kanteerava Stadium to show support for their favourite club as they were on the verge of scripting history.
Sunil Chhetri's heroics inspired Bengaluru to defeat Johor 3-1 at home. History was created and Garden City side were going to live the 'Doha Dream'.
The entire Indian Football fraternity stood united on November 5 as Bengaluru FC took the field in the AFC Cup final.
After fighting neck to neck and playing their hearts out against Iraq's AirForce Club, Albert Roca's men went down by a goal to nil.
The brave Bengaluru FC warriors might have lost the historic battle at Doha, Indians were proud of Sunil Chhetri and co.