Nili Perdomo scored what could prove to be a crucial away goal for the Blues.

Maziya S&R of Maldives boosted their hopes of advancing to the AFC Cup 2020 group stage with 2-1 win over India’s JSW Bengaluru FC in the first leg of their playoff at the Maldives National Football Stadium on Wednesday.

After a goalless first half, Ibrahim Mahudhee gave Maziya the lead only for Bengaluru to reply through Francisco Nili’s penalty. Cornelius Ezekiel’s late strike, however, gave the Maldives side the first leg advantage.

The sides meet again in the return leg next week with the winners earning a place in Group E alongside India’s Chennai City FC, TC Sports Club of Maldives and Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings.

Bengaluru were strong favourites coming into the tie, having beaten the Maldivians twice during their previous encounters in 2015, and the Indian Super League club dominated the opening 10 minutes of the game.

Parag Satish Shrivas had the first look at goal in the eighth minute when he received the ball at the top of the box but his finishing left much to be desired.

Maziya created a chance out of nothing a minute later when Ezekiel did well to evade his markers at the edge of the area but his cross into the box was easily cleared by Juanan Fernandez.

The home side wasted another chance in the 22nd minute when defender Aisam Ibrahim angled his header wide following Hamza Mohamed’s free-kick.

Bengaluru’s best chance came a minute before half-time when Nili dribbled his way past the Maziya players before shooting from a distance but goalkeeper Ovays Azizi scrambled the ball to safety.

Eager to put the cagey first half behind them, Bengaluru started with purpose and almost went ahead in the 63rd minute when midfielder Erik Paartalu smashed his header against the crossbar.

However, it was Maziya who broke the deadlock a minute later through Mahudhee, who curled his effort past the outstretched Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to find the bottom corner of the net.

Bengaluru received a lifeline when Nili made no mistake from the penalty spot after Mohammad Sharif’s foul on substitute Deshorn Brown in the 71th minute.

Maziya, however, reclaimed their lead after Ezekiel slipped past the Bengaluru backline before slotting the ball past Gurpreet in the 80th minute.

While Maziya have the advantage, Bengaluru will be equally confident after having scored an away goal.