Howrah: East Bengal wasted chances in plenty to settle for a 1-1 draw against minnows Viva Kerala in their season-ender tie at Howrah Stadium.
CS Sabeeth scored for Viva Kerala in the 10th minute to be adjudged man of the match, while East Bengal equalized seven minutes later through Budhiram Tudu.
East Bengal thus finished with 31 points, while the Kochi outfit avoided relegation with 30 points in their kitty.
Struggling to find their rhythm and cohesion, East Bengal once again failed to seize the momentum with the Kerala boys converting their chance easily to take an upperhand early.
Sabeeth brilliantly headed the ball home from a Noushad K corner kick to give Kerala a 10th minute lead as East Bengal found the going tough in front of their home supporters.
India captain Bhaichung Bhutia, recovering from a hamstring injury, did not start in the line-up and was substituted in place of scorer Tudu in the 29th minute, a move that raised many eyebrows.
Coach Philippe de Ridder defended his decision saying it was a "technical aspect" of the game.
A spirited Tudu showed his presence of mind scoring from a rebound to help East Bengal restore some pride.