East Bengal and Churchill Brothers battled to a draw in the heat of Cuttack as the opening game of the 2017 Federation Cup ended in a 1-1 stalemate at the Barabati Stadium on Sunday.

The Red-and-Golds started with Willis Plaza up top flanked by Nikhil Poojary and Wedson Anselme. EB also released Chris Payne prior to the tournament. For Churchill Brothers, Ansumanah Kromah was playing just behind Anthony Wolfe in a 4-4-1-1 formation.

Kromah had the first chance of the game for Churchill, heading just past the post as he was unmarked, EB escaping unscathed. Churchill suffered a huge blow later in the half as Wolfe had to be taken off with a groin strain, Pankaj Sona coming on instead.

The first half ended goalless but it wasn’t due to a lack of goalmouth action. Both teams were equally wasteful with the end-to-end football failing to serve up any decisive strikes.

Anselme would open the scoring in the 66th minute as the Haitian international bulldozed through the Churchill defence, past three defenders and struck a well-placed shot beyond Naveen Kumar to give East Bengal the lead.

It would be substitute Sona’s cross which found an onrushing Brandon Fernandes who slid it to Kromah who made no mistake with the finish. Robin Singh later came on for Plaza to try and win it for East Bengal but the spoils would be shared between the two teams in this opening Group A encounter.

East Bengal face Chennai City next while league champions Aizawl will take on Churchill on May 9.