Nigerian Ernest Jeremiah scored a fine hat-trick as East Bengal beat Turkmenistan's Nebitchi FC 3-2 in their concluding AFC Cup group league match in Kolkata on Wednesday.
The Kolkata giants, playing to salvage some pride after having bowed out of contention for a quarter-final slot long back, had their task made easy by the oppressive humidity level that sapped the energy of the visitors, who presently have an average temperature hovering as low as four degrees celsius at home.
The victory helped East Bengal avenge their 2-3 loss to Nebitchi in the away match and finish their AFC outings with seven points from six matches.
They got their other points from a win and a draw against Mukti Joddha Sansad of Bangladesh.
Bazarov Farhad and Arazov Hojaahmet were the scorers for Nebitchi, who wrapped up their league engagements on eight points.
East Bengal kept up pressure from the outset as Nebitchi players found it difficult to manoeuvre in the heat.
Conditions became unbearable for Garahanov Gildimyrov, who had to be taken away on a stretcher after he collapsed in the heat. Nebitchi, having come with only a 12-man squad, was forced to bring in Bazarov Farhad.
The locals went ahead in the 28th minute as Syed Rahim Nabi released Climax Lawrence with a fine pass and the latter set up Jeremiah, who shot home with a power-packed grounder.
The visitors drew parity in the 55th minute when Bazarov's shot from the left went in off an East Bengal defender.
But the relief in the Nebitchi camp was short-lived with Jeremiah finding the target yet again seven minutes later. A combined move by Nabi, Climax and S Malsawmtluanga brought the ball near the rival goal, and Jeremiah shot home to the left of goalkeeper Bagabernyev Retepberoi.
East Bengal consolidated their position in the 70th minute as Nabi, receiving a ball from Malsawmtluanga, fed Jeremiah, who completed his hat-trick with a sharp right footer that sneaked in after hitting the top post.
Minutes from the final whistle, Arazov narrowed the margin for the foreigners as he capitalised on an East Bengal defensive lapse to hit the bull's eye.