Kolkata: Federation Cup and local league champions East Bengal rode on a second-half strike by Tolgay Ozbay to sweat past newcomers ONGC 1-0 in their opening match of the 4th I-League at Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Saturday.
It was a sloppy display from the home giants who lacked creativity and coordination throughout the match and their winning moment came late in the 84th minute with the Australian recruit earning the red-and-gold brigade the crucial three points.
Title favourites East Bengal never had it easy against ONGC, who graduated to the top tier after becoming champions in the second division. The Mumbai-based outfit thwarted the home team successfully in the first-half.
East Bengal were not short of opportunities, but were short of creativity most of the time. They must be relieved to earn full points and make a winning start.
There was a moment of celebration in the East Bengal camp when a surging Robin Singh fired in an Ozbay cross from the right in the 17th minute but the robust striker was adjudged off-side by the linesman to bring an end to the early euphoria.
The strike duo of Singh and Ozbay took time to settle down while Penn Orji attacked from the left flank but ONGC defenders did not let them easily.
East Bengal`s sloppy groundwork continued into the second half as ONGC men looked aggressive and almost went ahead in the 48th when Baba Tunde`s shot went on top of the crosspiece much to the relief of home side.
Showing some sense of urgency, East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan brought in attacking medio Alvito D`Cunha in place of Beikhokhei in the 63rd minute but still their attack lacked coordination.
There was also lack of application from Morgan`s boys. There were some measured passes but they were not utilized fully.
In the 75th minute, Ozbay supplied from the right but Singh failed to utilise the measured cross much to the frustration of the home supporters.
Ozbay broke the deadlock with a subtle header from a Naoba Singh centre late into the match to bring in the match-winner.
The scoreline could have been doubled easily but Singh cut a sorry figure in the dying minutes to miss an open net.
East Bengal got the services of Mehtab Hussain who passed a fitness test to figure in the starting line-up even as Sushant Matthew failed to recover in time.