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 in Kolkata.
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.
Dempo beat Salgaocar
Dempo SC edged past defending champions Salgaocar 1-0 to open their I-League campaign on a winning note at the Nehru stadium, Fatorda.
The all-important goal was scored in the 80th minute by Ranty Martins.
The win is a shot in the arm for coach Armando Colaco whose team had not got the right start in the season, losing to East Bengal in the Federation Cup.
Dempo started well and had the first chance in the 13th minute but a Clifford Miranda try from inside the box went straight to keeper Karanjit Singh.
Minute later, Salgaocar's keeper Karanjit Singh came to his side's rescue when he punched the ball away from Climax Lawrence off a pass from Ranty.
Miranda, who was the driving force on the flank, kept the rival defence on their toes even as Dempo forced three successive corners but to no avail.
Dempo had another opportunity in the dying minutes of the first half to take the lead but Joaquim Abranches failed to direct his shot on target after a move between Ranty and Anthony Pereira, which saw the latter sending a deep cross.
Salgaocar were not given any space to operate on the flanks.
But at the change of ends, Salgaocar made a couple of changes and had the early momentum and came close to scoring twice. First, an Edeh Chidi shot off substitute Francis Fernandes was palmed away to safety by rival keeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury in the 18th minute.
Few minutes later, an Isfaq Ahmed try went straight into the hands of the keeper Roy.
With both teams looking to settle for a draw, a sudden lack of concentration on the part of the Salgaocar midfield allowed Joaquim Abranches to lay a through pass to Ranty, keeping the rival defence napping.
Ranty sent a firm ground shot to beat Karanjit.