India's premier club East Bengal registered an emphatic 4-2 victory against Malaysian outfit Negeri Sembilan in a group 'E' opening round match of the AFC Cup at Kolkata on Wednesday.
The city giants, who had opened their Cup campaign with a 3-2 triumph against Singapore's Geylang United, stretched their winning streak at the Salt Lake stadium to step ahead for a quarter-final berth in the 18-team tournament.
Brazilian Cristiano Junior struck a brace (31st and 75th minutes) and Mike Okoro (9th) and Baichung Bhutia (66th) scored one apiece for the hosts while Rajan Al Koran (45th) and Shahrin Bin Mohammed (62nd) reduced the margin for the visitors on their maiden international outing abroad.
The Kolkata outfit opened their account nine minutes into the game.
It was a nice one-two-one between Okoro and Bhutia on top of the rival box that baffled the Negeri defence before the Nigerian unleashed a right foot diagonal grounder that sneaked into the net past Negeri's towering goalie Cajetan Oparaugo.
With complete domination in the middle, East Bengal increased the scoreline in the 31st minute through a penalty awarded after Oparaugo brought down a goal-bound move by Bhutia inside the box. Junior made no mistake to keep his grounder into the target.
After establishing a 2-0 lead, East Bengal missed a couple of easy chances that came in their way. They were blissfully unaware of the sudden reversals that were to follow.
The visitors, looking completely out of sorts, however struck to their task in the dying minutes of the first half. Mid-fielder Rajan, a member of the national squad, received a pass from Efendi Malik on top of rival box, found his way past two defenders and blasted the ball, low into the net, giving no chance to East Bengal custodian Sangram Mukherjee.
This spurred the Malaysians into action. The induction of youngster Shahrin in place of Syaiful also added fizz to their attacks, which showed the famed rival defence in poor light during next 20 minutes.
Against the run-of-play, Negeri scored the second goal in the 62nd minute off a free-kick by Shahrin, whose wicked swinging kick from outside the penalty arc was bang into the target.
The goal restored parity for Negeri but also marked an end to their short period of dominance.
And Bhutia netted the third goal for the city giants through a flying header of a Subhas Chakraborty centre in the 66th minute.
The hosts consolidated their lead in the 75th minute through an opportunistic strike by Junior, who grabbed a loose ball near the box, ran straight and neatly slotted home.
East Bengal 4 (Mike Okoro 9th, Cristiano Junior 31st, B Bhutia 66th, Cristiano Junior 75th) beat Negeri Sembilan 2 (Rajan Koran 45th, Shahrin Mohammed 62nd).