With a goalkeeper providing as much security as a post-dated cheque on a crashing bank, State Bank of Travancore (SBT) gave a beleaguered East Bengal an easy victory, which could be just the fillip they require. At least, everyone in the tournament's best-attended match so far went home hoping so.
Syed Rahim Nabi opened the scoring in the 22nd minute with a diving header that left three SBT players — Abdul Basheer, who was the closest, Lanel Thomas and Paul Anthony — too stunned to react.
The ball grazed the upright before going in but most importantly, East Bengal were in front for the first time in five matches spread over the Durand Cup, the IFA Shield and the Federation Cup.
It was 2-0 — and this has not happened for sometime now — in the 39th minute through Alvito d’Cunha's left-foot volley into an open goal after Nabi intercepted SBT goalkeeper Harshal Rahman's attempted clearance.
D'Cunha limped out with an ankle problem being left largely unutilised except for set-piece movement because of East Bengal's inability to use the left flank. D'Cunha said he played despite an injury "for the team's sake" and is now hoping to recover in time for the quarterfinal.
“It will be a big loss if Alvito is out,” East Bengal coach Carlos Pereira said. Given that his replacement Chandan Das’s most notable show was a booking, the Brazilian has every right to be very worried.
In another match, Dempo Sports Club were hardly stretched and ran out 1-0 winners against Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Anthony Perera scored the lone goal of the match in the 25th minute.