Prolific scorer Okolie Odafe struck a brace as holders Churchill Brothers overcame initial sluggishness to prevail over Mumbai FC 3-1 in a Group A quarter-final league match, in the 121st Osian's Durand Cup, at the Ambedkar Stadium in Delhi on Friday.
In another match of the same group, last year's runners-up Mahindra United began their campaign with an easy 3-0 victory over Army XI.
Odafe set the ball rolling for Churchill Brothers, the first goal coming off a defection from Peter Siddiqui in the 32nd minute. The lanky Nigerian cut inside from the right and took a left-footer that came off Siddiqui and sneaked in at the far post, leaving goalkeeper Kalyan Choubey stranded.
The last I-League's highest scorer then added the second in the 43rd minute, finishing off a pass from Ogba Kalu.
Savio Monteiro applied the finishing touches in the 71st minute, knocking the ball home after his effort came off the woodwork.
Noel Wilson's goal from the penalty in the 77th minute, after Ashley Fernandes brought down K Aseem, witnessed a late fight back, but could not produce the result Mumbai FC were looking for.
The change of coach had little effect on Churchill Brothers and the team still depended on Odafe to find the net. He has neither lost his antics and skill nor the pace and close control that made him one of domestic soccer's most feared goal-poachers.
I-League debutants Mumbai FC did well initially to cut off service to
Odafe. And the Nigerian did show his frustration, throwing his arms up and asking for support. But once he got going, there was very little Mumbai FC could do.
For Mahindra, Mohammad Rafi tapped in a corner from Douhou Pierre for his side's opener in the 38th minute. Edeh Chidi doubled it three minutes later, latching on to a pass from Rafi after Paresh Shivalkar did the spadework down the left. Pierre completed the tally in the 50th, converting from the spot after Rafi was brought down by K P Kabui.
The Mumbai side absorbed Army XI's pressure in the initial stages before settling down to play some solid football.
Army XI won four corners in the space of 14 minutes but could not make the set-pieces count. Playing their fourth match in 10 days, they looked tired. The pace and agility that were hallmarks of their game in the pre-quarter-finals, were missing today.
Mahindra United did not also let them play to their strengths -- the hit and run technique that was so effective in the previous matches.
Mahindra, who had a five-week camp in Goa, were playing their first competitive match this season. And the Mumbai giants made light work of the absence of N P Pradeep and Steven Dias, both still embroiled in the transfer saga.
They were resolute in defence, with newcomer Justine Stephen particularly impressive. Their only weakness was the right channel, where Manjit Singh could not quite replicate the success of his India teammate Steven Dias.