The I-League newcomers, Pune FC, dominated three-time National Football League champions East Bengal but for two acrobatic saves from goalkeeper Abhra Mondal, a goalline clearance from Syed Rahim Nabi and a lucky escape off the horizontal, East Bengal would have been routed.
The hosts knew that they had to pressure their opponents and using the width of the park gave them control early which they never relinquished. If Mondal wasn't under scrutiny then, it was because even Pune FC struggled on a pitch used more for javelin and shotput practice.
But as the rain came down, Pune FC's attacks got greater thrust. Had Brazilian striker Edmar Figueira not overrun the ball, which got stuck in a puddle, after Mehrajuddin Wadoo slipped, East Bengal would have been trailing after the hour-mark.
It was Pune FC all the way from there. Figueira forced a low save from Mondal in the 67th minute and in the 80th, a right-foot blast from Izumi Arata, whose header was cleared by Nabi on the goalline in the 29th minute, thudded into the horizontal. Mondal deflected a similar effort five minutes later from Arata after he and Figueira hit on the break.
East Bengal started with Alvito d'Cunha but it was only after Renedy Singh came on that their attacks assumed some purpose. Renedy's 83rd minute free-kick, earned by Bhaichung Bhutia, had Pune FC goalie Subrata Pal flying to his right to keep it out.
Coach Subhas Bhowmick said his team would get reinforcement for the next game against Mahindra United with Ghanaian striker Yusif Yakubu joining the squad on Sunday.
Easy for Dempo
Mumbai: Dempo brooked little opposition from an inexperienced Mumbai FC at the Cooperage on Saturday. Dempo scored through Beto (21st), Sunil Chhetri (25th) with help from Ranty Martins and Climax Lawrence got the third in the 51st.