Al Ittihad of Syria rode on a double strike by Abdulfatah Alagha and pumped in two goals in the dying minutes to drub East Bengal 4-1 in their Group D AFC Cup opening match at the Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata on Wednesday.
The win helped the Syrian outfit climb to the top spot in their group ahead of Al Nejmeh of Lebanon and Al Qadsia of Kuwait who have one point each.
It was a pathetic performance by East Bengal as they let in two goals in the closing minutes through Syrian national team player Alagha (89th) and Obaid Al Ali Alsalal (90+1st) to register the thumping win.
Yusif Yakubu scored through a penalty in the 56th minute to help East Bengal reduce the margin.
Ranked No 10th in their local Syrian league, Al Ittihad drew first blood through Otobong Ene Edet Otudor in the seventh minute, before Alagha scored in the 28th minute as they went into the break with an 2-0 lead.
Having conceded two goals, the red-and-gold brigade, playing in front of their home crowd, pulled up their socks with some spirited efforts by captain Syed Rahim Nabi, inspirational Indian skipper Bhaichung Bhutia who was supported by Abel Hammond.
But their efforts were not enough as the Syrian defence stood tall while their captain Yasser Jarkas dishing out a superb performance under the bar to deny East Bengal of a goal in the first-half.
After the changeover, egged on by the home crowd, the local side produced an attacking game but they could only manage to pull one goal back through a penalty.
A 54th-minute tackle by Salah Chahrour brought down Bhutia inside the Syrian box and referee Abdul awarded a penalty in favour of East Bengal.
Yakubu managed to convert it as his shot hit the post before it went in to give East Bengal some respite.
Boosted by the goal, East Bengal created opportunities through Nabi and Bhutia but only to falter in the end. In a 75th-minute attack, Yakubu's centre was brilliantly cleared by the Syrian outfit's defenders.
A minute later, East Bengal had another chance through a free kick after Bhutia was tackled from behind. Abel Hammond took the free kick but only to put it away.
East Bengal's worse came only in the closing minutes.
Alagha capitalised on a defensive lapse to bang in his second with a powerful right footer in the 89th minute as East Bengal goalkeeper Abhra Mondal looked helpless.
Al Ittihad scored one minute into the injury time with Alsalal capitalising on another shoddy display in defence to hit the final nail on East Bengal.