East Bengal's AFC Cup prospects were further dented on Wednesday when they went down 0-1 to Jordan's Al Faisaly in a lacklustre Group A league match in Kolkata.
The visitors, who handed the Kolkata giants a 5-0 drubbing in the first leg at Amman, scored the only goal in the 30th minute from a penalty, converted by skipper Hatem Nohammed Aqel, on a hot and humid afternoon at the Salt Lake stadium.
Sandip Das tripped an advancing Qusai Moh'd Alieh inside the box, prompting Uzbek referee, Irmatov Ravshan, to point to the dreaded spot. Hatem made no mistake in netting the easiest of set-pieces with a power-packed shot that went to the right of East Bengal custodian Rajat Ghosh Dastidar.
East Bengal, yet to recover from the battering in the away match, began with an ultra-defensive approach, but switched to an attack mode after the breather in their search for the equaliser.
They rattled the Jordanians with a series of raids and were unlucky not to have restored parity in the final minute when the post stood in the way of a Jeremiah shot.
Al Faisaly, who took things easy and never seemed even close to their awesome best, were reduced to ten men in the 69th minute when seasoned international Qusai Moh'd Mah'd Ali
Alieh was given marching orders after he received his second yellow booking.
After four matches, East Bengal have one point, after a draw and three losses, while the Jordanians continue to lead the four-team group with 10 points.
The oppressive weather sapped the players' energy, especially that of the visitors, and the handful of spectators were treated to pedestrian fare.
In the end, what was expected to be a one-sided contest between a club from a middle east nation, ranked as high as 42nd in the FIFA rankings, and an outfit from India, who now are
placed as low as 134th, turned out to be a close affair, more so because the Jordanians found it difficult to manoeuvre in the extreme conditions.
The tourists did not exert themselves to the full, and relied on sporadic moves to test the packed East Bengal defence in the first half.
But they amply demonstrated their superiority in ball possession, playing with short passes, and their superior build and height always posed problems for the locals.
Faisaly got the first positive chance of the match as early as the tenth minute, when their Iraqi recruit Arkan Shamoul's measured free-kick came to an unmarked Hatem, but he shot over.
East Bengal coach Subhas Bhowmick left out stars Alvito D'Cunha and Baichung Bhutia from the starting line-up in order to keep them fresh for the NFL derby tie versus arch-rivals Mohun Bagan and tried to crowd out the opponent's forwards near the box.
At times, ten East Bengal players were seen in their own half, leaving Bijen Singh a loner upfront.