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East Bengal grounds Air India

Amitabha Das Sharma

CUTTACK: East Bengal warmed up with a confident start grounding Air India 3-1 in the opening Group A league match of the 32nd Federation Cup football at the Barabati Stadium here on Tuesday.

East Bengal's self-belief, gained under its new English coach Trevor Morgan, reflected in its well-orchestrated attacks. Air India proved a poor match and was pinned to defending right from the start.

The newly-strung attacking combination of the towering Robin Singh and Australian Tolgay Ozbey carried the team's fortunes. Ozbey, who troubled the Air India defence with his power and agility, received a Robin Singh assist and finished with an angular left-footer for the lead in the 21st minute.

Dominance continues

East Bengal's dominance continued into the second session as Air India failed to regroup effectively. The Mumbai side coached by Yusuf Ansari, rendered weak by a non-functional midfield, failed to get its attack going.

On the other hand Ozbey, showing the knack to break into the opponent box, realised a penalty in the 54th minute, when he was checked by a fumbling Air India custodian Kunal Sawant. The striker made it 2-0.

East Bengal's attack continued to flourish with its quick-passing approach and opened the goal route again.

Building up an attack on the left, East Bengal scored again in the 64th minute when Robin Singh volleyed home a nice lob from his midfield colleague Saumik Dey.

East Bengal conceded a late penalty off a Nirmal Chetri mistake that helped Air India earn a consolation goal.

Vijith Shetty, on whom the foul was committed, scored from the spot to make it 3-1 in the third minute of injury time.

Elsewhere, I-League champion Dempo SC rallied from behind to beat debutant ONGC 5-2 in a group C match at Ludhiana.

The junior India XI outfit, another newcomer in the tournament, beat the home side JCT Mills 1-0.

In Vasco (Goa) Chirag United SC began its Group B campaign with a win beating qualifier Sesa Football Academy 1-0. In another match at the same venue Churchill Brothers thrashed Viva Kerala 4-0 to pick up the full quota of points.

HASC stuns Pune FC

Hindustan Aeronautics SC (HASC) stunned a strong Pune FC by a solitary goal in other group A match.

HASC, which returned to elite stage of the I-League this season, ensured full points through a first-half goal from Nigerian striker Hamza Amaba.

HASC was better organized than its opponent, which was mostly haphazard in approach in the first half.

The Bangalore side gained from a defensive error which let go a midfield through-pass that Hamza collected and finished with a neat effort in the 17th minute.

Resolute defence

Pune FC tried to regroup in the later stages of action but failed to breach the resolute HASC defence commendably marshalled by its stoppers R. Srikanth and Joseph Adeola.

The results:

Group A (Cuttack): East Bengal 3 (Tolgay Ozbay 21st & 54th (pen), Robin Singh 64th) bt Air India 1 (Vijith Shetty 90+3 (pen); HASC 1 (Hamza Amaba 17th) bt Pune FC 0.

Group B (Vasco): Chirag United SC (Denson Devadas 19th) bt Sesa FA 0; Churchill Brothers 4 (Koko Sakibo 39th, Odafa Okolie 57th & 65th, Rouhallah Saminia 76th) bt Viva Kerala SC 0.

Group C (Ludhiana): Dempo SC 5 (Roberto Silva 33rd, Ranty Martins 56th, 75th (pen) & 78th, Joaquim Abranches 89th) bt ONGC 2 (Babatunde 17th & 41st); India XI 1 (Malswamfela 76th) bt JCT Mills 0 .

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