A disjointed East Bengal failed to match the speed and precision of a well-oiled Churchill Brothers in their first I-League tie, one that will go down in the books as a never-ending tale of fluffed chances and little communication between their players.
Runners-up in the last edition, East Bengal showed glimpses of old form but were largely cold and lacked enterprise. The absence of Mehtab Hossain was telling and despite Penn Orji's desperate attempts at providing the link between the defence and the midfield, East Bengal looked in disarray.
A sudden hamstring injury to Scotsman Alan Gow meant Tolgay Ozbey started proceedings upfront with Robin Singh. But with Australian defender Antun Mathew almost shadowing him, Ozbey had a torrid time breaking through. With Sushanth Mathew off-colour, it fell upon Penn Orji to shoulder midfield duties that proved too burdensome.
Faced with Churchill Brothers' quick counterattacks, East Bengal's backline barely managed to track back in time. That cost them dear. In the 12th minute, ND Opara found a ball in the open and made his way to the East Bengal goalmouth unchallenged till Nirmal Chhetri offered a feeble one. Opara had no trouble bypassing him and slotting home from close.
Churchill Brothers 1 (ND Opara 12) East Bengal 0
Pune FC 0 Lajong FC 0;
HAL Bangalore 0 Chirag United 1; Salgaocar S.C 0 Dempo SC 1