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Bangalore: Last year’s finalists JSW Bengaluru FC had India national team captain Sunil Chhetri to thank for the only goal of their 1-0 win over Maziya of the Maldives on Wednesday as the I-League club clinched top spot in Group E of the 2017 AFC Cup to be crowned South Asian Zonal Champions.

Victory moved Bengaluru level on points with the club from Male and ended a run of consecutive defeats for the Indian side, with Albert Roca’s team taking top spot in the group thanks to their superior head-to-head record over Maziya.

A draw would have been enough for Maziya to advance to the next phase of the competition and Aleksandar Rakic went closest to giving Marjan Sekulovski’s side the lead in the 18th minute, only for his header to come back off the post.

That left Chhetri to emerge as the hero with the 32-year-old curling in his 57th minute free kick from 20 yards into the top corner to keep Bengaluru’s hopes of success in the 2017 edition of the AFC Cup alive.

Photo: Lagardère Sports