The long 11-month road to Asian club supremacy has commenced as India’s Mohun Bagan kick-started the 2016 AFC Champions League on Wednesday.
Aiming for a first-ever qualification to the AFC Champions League group stage, Mohun Bagan collected a 3-1 victory over Singapore’s Tampines Rovers in Kolkata in the lone preliminary stage round 1 east tie.
Jeje Lalpekhlua, India’s recent goalscoring hero from the 2015 SAFF Championship victory, had the honour of netting the first goal of the continent's 2016 campaign. Cornel Glen doubled the advantage, and while Yasir Hanapi pulled one back for Tampines, Mohun Bagan sealed the win with seven minutes left to play when Yusa Katsumi scored in front of 12,000 fans.
Mohun, one of India’s traditional big clubs, now face the daunting task of tackling Shandong Luneng next week in China, with the victor to face 2008 runners-up Adelaide United on 9 February.
Matches on the west half of the continent will also commence on the same day, with the group stage to commence in late February.
Records crowds marked last year’s edition of the competition, while the on-field quality was evidenced by the impressive showings of Guangzhou Evergrande and Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2015.
Once again the victor of the AFC Champions League will represent Asia at the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup.