Brazilian Eduardo da Silva Escobar was the star of the show as he found the net four times in JCT's 5-0 rout of Assam Rifles in the Osian Durand Cup football tournament at the Ambedkar Stadium in Delhi on Wednesday.
Escobar started his goal-scoring spree after Nigerian Julius Irabor Akpele found the target in the 15th minute. He added his own strikes in the 34th, 53rd, 66th and 89th minutes.
JCT now face Salgaocar Sports Club in the quarter-finals on November 4. The Goan side thrashed Viva Kerala 4-1 in an earlier match.
Savio Medeira's Salgaocar scored through Shylo Malswamtlunga (15th and 90th minutes), Nigerian Felix Chimaokwu (38th) and Nicholas Rodrigues (40th).
Saikhom Santa Singh scored for Viva Kerala in the 73rd minute.
Much was expected from Assam Rifles but JCT, guided by former national coach Sukhwinder Singh, used their superior height and build to keep the opposition under constant pressure.
The winners of the inaugural National Football League in 1996-97 are coming off a second place finish in the last edition and their display should make them one of the favourites to add to their five Durand Cup titles.
Assam Rifles striker Akum Ao was the most potent threat and closely marked throughout the match. As a result, the paramilitary team looked short of ideas. JCT keeper Karanjit Singh hardly had any work to do.
JCT took the lead when a corner from the left flag by Pereira was headed goalwards by Akpele. Lokeshwar blocked the first one but could do nothing about the rebound.
Pereira's next corner was headed in by an unmarked Escobar.
Assam Rifles' ordeal did not end at half-time as Escobar netted twice again to seal the deal.
Escobar played a diagonal pass to Parveen Kumar in the box and skipper Naoba Singh was adjudged to have brought the forward down. Escobar coolly slotted home the resultant penalty.
The Brazilian curled in a delightful free-kick past the defensive wall to complete his hat-trick after Lokeshwar was pulled up for a foul outside the area. Escobar's left-footer found the far corner.
He found his fourth goal late in the game when he broke the off-side trap and fired goalwards from close range.
Lokeshwar saved once but could not stop the second attempt.
Malswamtlunga brace in Salgaocar win
Salgaocar have recently made it back to the top division of the National League and today's performance will be a morale booster for the 1998-99 NFL champions, who won the Durand Cup in 1999 and 2003.
Felix was a constant threat to the Viva Kerala defence and the back line had to work overtime to keep him at bay.
The team from the southern state was limited to sporadic attempts on goal as Salgaocar had the bulk of the possession with their dominating midfield. Even the rare attacks failed to achieve much as their strike force lacked bite.
Viva started brightly and a through ball from Othallo Tabia found its way to Ghanain Abbey Wisdom, who missed the target with only keeper Marcus Basumatari to beat.
The close shave spurred Salgaocar into action and they were soon ahead with a splendid team effort.
Skipper Rocus Lamare freed Anil Kumar on the left wing and a cut back to centre found Jerose Oliviera, who passed to Malswamtlunga on the right edge of the box. He had time to chest the ball down before firing a volley which flew past Purushothaman TG in the Viva goal.
Kelemba Singh brought down Remus Gomes at the right edge of the penalty box and brilliantly curled in the spot kick with a left foot by Nicholas Rodrigues.
Salgaocar continued their offensive in the second period as well and the Viva defence survived for a long time more by good fortune than by design.
Viva Kerala got on the score-sheet against the run of play when an attempted cross from the left flank by substitute Saikhom Santa Singh found the top corner beating a desperately back-pedalling Basumatari.
Salgaocar put the finishing touches on a good day's work when Felix centred for Malswamtlunga, who found the net in the dying minutes of the game.