Churchill Brothers missed out a berth in the AFC Champions League as they lost to United Arab Emirates giants Al Wahda 5-2 in the final play-off match in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
Despite the loss Churchill can hold their heads high, as they gave a spirited fight to the UAE side, which had featured in the ACL on four earlier occasions, including a semi-final appearance in 2007.
Churchill were on equal terms against their formidable rivals initially, with the half-time scoreline reading 1-1, but lost their way in the second session.
The UAE side came out all guns blazing in the second session to pump in four goals while the Indian champions could find the rival net only once in the second half.
Al Wahda had earlier beaten Syrian powerhouse Al Karamah 1-0 in the first West Zone play-off at Homs on January 30 before taking on Churchill at Al Nahyan Stadium.
Another Goan side, Dempo Sports Club, had also failed to qualify in the ACL last year after losing 0-3 to UAE's Al Sharjah in the final play-off.
Al Wahda, who have at least six UAE national players and a couple of highly-rated Brazillians in their ranks, will now join two-time ACL winners Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia, 2008 semi-finalist Bunyodkor of Uzbekistan and Iranian outfit Zob Ahan in Group B of Asia's premier club competition, which begins on February 23.
In the East Zone final play-off, Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) beat Thailand's Muangthong United 4-3 via the penalty shootout to qualify for the ACL.
The teams were locked scoreless after regulation and extra-time at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore.
SAF will play in Group G alongside 2008 ACL winners Gamba Osaka, Suwon Samsung Bluewings of South Korea and Henan Jianye of China.