East Bengal (EB) began their Durand Cup campaign with a goalless draw against the Indian Navy in a Group B clash at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) here on Monday.
Harikrishna A.U. was awarded the Man of the Match in a game that saw the Red & Gold dominate, particularly in the second half.
It was a cagey first half with EB coach Stephen Constantine opting for a four-man midfield and an all-Indian playing eleven. His plans probably went haywire right at the start when Naorem Mahesh Singh picked up an injury and had to be replaced by Tuhin Das.
The only chance of note in the half probably came when EB's V.P. Suhair broke through inside the box and played it out wide to Tuhin, whose cross back-in found Amarjit Kiyam in space, but the midfielder could not get the direction right.
EB came out with intent in the second half. Coach Constantine brought on Brazilian Alex Lima in place of Aniket Jadhav at the break in a clear show of that intent.
Skipper on the day Sumit Passi created the first chance of the half when his brilliant pile-driver from at least 30 yards out beat Navy keeper Vishnu and thundered the right upright before coming back.
With the opening goal still elusive, Constantine kept ringing in the changes, and brought in midfielder Souvik Chakrabarti and forward Mahitosh Roy in place of Angousana and Amarjit Kiyam to infuse fresh legs into the attack.
Just before the drinks break, Suhair, who had a brilliant second half from the right wing, found Sumit Passi's run in the box with a wonderful defense-splitting cross, but the striker hit straight at the keeper. Lima was at hand to pounce on the rebound, but his hurried punch was the way-off target.
In the 82nd, Tuhin, who eventually had a good game, provided a great cross from the left and the ball crossed the keeper, crying out from a connection from an on-rushing Suhair, but his slide missed the ball.
With three minutes of regulation time remaining, Tuhin delivered another great cross, but the header from Passi brought off a brilliant flying save from Vishnu. Lima was again at hand for the rebound but yet again failed to score from close.