Defending champions East Bengal's title aspirations went up in smoke as they were beaten 1-3 by Vasco Sports Club, Goa [ Images ], in their concluding ninth National Football League match on Saturday.
Anthony Pereira struck twice while Fabio Soares netted the other goal for Vasco, for whom the surprise win came a little too late, as they have already been demoted to the second division.
Sandip Das was the lone scorer for East Bengal, who completed their engagements with 43 points from 22 matches.
East Bengal, who first needed a victory against Vasco to stay in the hunt and then hope that leaders Sporting Clube de Goa and Dempo would also suffer reverses, were nowhere near their best before 20,000 supporters at the Kanchenjunga stadium.
With a host of footballers, including Baichung Bhutia and Alvito de Cunha indisposed, East Bengal were rudderlees as Vasco controlled the proceedings from the beginning and trailed 0-1 at the breather.
The Goans finished their league odyssey gleaning 20 points from 22 outings.
Vasco took the lead in the 22nd minute when Pereira scored from a goalmouth melee. Following a corner, the ball fell into the box, with a number of players standing near. In the confusion, Pereira reached the ball before East Bengal defenders Selwyn Fernandes and Debjit Ghosh and lobbed it into the net, giving no chance to custodian Sangram Mukherjee.
Early in the second session, the visitors scored an insurance goal in the 48th minute as Pereira addressed a pass to man of the match Fabio Soares, slotted the ball home.
But East Bengal tried to stage a comeback soon after, conducting several assaults on the rival citadel. They finally tasted success in the 54th minute as S Malsawmtluanga fed Sandip Das, whose strong right footer deflected in off a Vasco defender.
However, Vasco again seized the initiative and Pereira followed up a long ball from Sidney Rodrigues to put the ball into the net from close in the 67th minute.
The Goans could have returned home with a bigger margin had the woodwork not stood in their way once in each session.
In the 11th minute, Agnelo Colaco's power-packed effort hit the post off Subhas Chakraborty [ Images ], while Fabio's measured backvolley found the crossbar towards the end of the second half.
East Bengal were reduced to ten men for the last 19 minutes of the match when veteran Debjit Ghosh was marched out after receiving his second yellow booking.