Defending champions East Bengal and JCT scored contrasting 2-0 victories to share the top spot in Group C in the 30th Federation Cup football tournament in Kolkata on Thursday.
I-League leaders Sporting Clube de Goa had a disastrous start to their Federation Cup campaign, going down in a match totally dominated by Sukhwinder Singh's side at the Vidyasagar Krirangan in Barasat.
In the day's second match, East Bengal recovered from a poor first-half during which they missed many chances before struggling to beat qualifiers New Delhi Heroes.
Balwant Singh gave JCT the lead in the 23rd minute, converting a corner from Julius Akpele. Te last-named's flag kick took prodigious turn and Balwant capitalised on a goalmouth melee to head home the opener.
Five minutes before the breather JCT got their second. Brazilian Eduardo Escobar collected a Julius through pass and slammed the ball home.
The goals exposed Sporting Clube's vulnerability in defence. They tried to bounce back and made a few sorties on the rival defence but poor finishing dashed their hopes.
The Goan outfit got a chance to reduce the margin after Nathaniel Amos was brought down near the edge of the box. But the free-kick from Wilton Gomes was wayward.
In the other match, Sunil Chhetri, sporting a bald look, was not in the best of form but the Indian striker found his feet in the second-half to score once and then set up another goal for Alvito D'Cunha as East Bengal beat New Delhi Heroes.
The front pair of Sunil and Yusif Yakubu's lack of co-ordination was clearly visible with the former missing out on many chances in the first-half.
With India coach Bob Houghton watching from the sidelines, Sunil failed to capitalise on the set-pieces from teammates Rennedy Singh and Yakubu.
Chhetri upped the tempo following the change over and latching on to a Yakubu pass, gave the red-and-gold brigade the lead in the 46th minute.
Jayanta Sen set up East Bengal's second goal in the 82nd minute with a brilliant back pass which was flicked onto Alvito's path by Sunil. The Goan midfielder got past New Delhi Heroes goalkeeper Rajat Guha to complete the formalities.
Having lost their last three matches (to Dempo, JCT and Churchill Brothers) in the I-League, this was a much-needed win for East Bengal.