Kolkata, Oct 22: Favourites East Bengal paid heavily for defensive lapses as they lost by a solitary goal to Churchill Brothers in their opening encounter of the fifth edition of the I-League football tournament at the floodlit Yuba Bharati Krirangan here today.
N D Opara scored the match-winner for Churchill Brothers at the 12th minute as last year's runners-up East Bengal returned goalless to lose the match, despite an improved performance in the second-half.
The match got off following a heavy downpour as East Bengal defence was caught unawares with an early goal. Playing in front of a boisterous home support, East Bengal missed midfielder Mehtab Hussain (groin injury) sorely as without his support the defence looked spineless.
The Super Cup winners nearly conceded in the 11th minute but a sloppy work by Churchill's Gabonese recruit Henry Antchouet saved the moment for East Bengal. The Gabonese forward made a mess of an easy chance when he received the ball in front of an open net but his shot was off target.
It did not matter much for the Goans' scheme of things as a terrible defensive lapse saw Churchill take the lead in an easy fashion.
Opara received a loose ball from the midfield as he fired in a right footer from the near post to give Churchill a 1-0 lead.
Under pressure, East Bengal looked to step up the attack and scored in the 27th minute through Reishengmei Vashum but for a clear off-side.
East Bengal regrouped themselves after the changeover but luck did not favour them as a powerful shot by Tolgay Ozbey hit the crosspiece in the 56th minute.
The credit should also be given to Churchill custodian Felix D'Souza who impressed under the bar, thwarting at least two good attempts by East Bengal.