Mohammedan Sporting booked a place in the semifinals of the 126th Durand Cup, overcoming 10-man Kalighat Milan Sangh 3-1 in controversial circumstances, at the Ambedkar Stadium here on Saturday. The Kolkata side will play Mumbai Tigers, which thrashed United Sikkim 6-2, for a place in Thursday’s final.

After producing an unconvincing display in its 4-2 win over Army Green, Sporting’s stand-in manager John Hou fielded five new faces. Permanent head coach Masood Abdul Aziz Bola was suspended for unsporting conduct in the previous fixture.

The changes helped Sporting to plug the gaps at the back and it took the lead in the 16th minute when Ajay Singh prodded home from close range.

Kalighat drew level soon after, as skipper Supriya Bhakat’s corner was nodded past the ‘keeper by defender Charles Dsizah. Kalighat survived eight minutes later when playmaker Penn Orji’s weak penalty was saved by Suvam Sen after Dzisah felled Jerry Zirsanga in the box.

However, Dsizah turned villain in the first-half injury time when he committed a needless foul to earn a second yellow card. The numerical advantage allowed Sporting more space in the opposition half, with midfielder Antony Soren powering the team.

Powerful header

The turning point arrived in the 62nd minute as Ajay scored his second goal with a powerful header off a cross from substitute Khantan Paite.

The Kalighat players were incensed as they believed that Ajay was off-side and remonstrated with the referee. The controversy seemed to have affected the men-in-yellow as their fate was sealed in the 77th minute when Orji scored from a deflected shot.

In group I, Tigers trailed 1-2 in the first half before a flurry of goals confirmed its progress to the last four. Needing only a draw to earn a semifinal spot, the Mumbai side was led by forward Bikash Jairu, who scored four goals to become the tournament’s top marksman with six strikes.

The results: Mohammedan Sporting 3 (Ajay Singh 16 & 62, Penn Orji 77) bt Kalighat Milan Sangh 1 (Charles Dzisah 30).

Mumbai Tigers 6 (Bikash Jairu 25, 41, 45+1 & 53, Chhangte Malswmkima 86, N. Zeeshan Rahman 90+4) bt United Sikkim FC 2 (Amritpal Singh 17, Nima Thamang 30).

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