Fortune continued to favour holder East Bengal in the Federation Cup as it got past Dempo SC through a controversial goal to book a semifinal berth.
The result in the concluding round league match of the quarterfinal group ‘C' leg at the Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday appeared to be determined by refereeing oversights, which denied the visitor a genuine penalty while giving the host the winning goal from off-side.
Needing a win to ensure a berth in the last-four stage, East Bengal struggled to get the break before finding the net late off a Robin Singh shot in the 68th minute.
The controversy arose at the point the ball took a deflection off the other East Bengal forward Baljit Sahni, who was standing in a clear off side-position inches off the goal-line when Robin took the shot from the centre of the box.
Assistant referee Khamba Singh failed to notice the deflection validating the goal.
This ushered in more supervising errors when referee Pratap Singh of Uttarakhand turned a blind eye to East Bengal striker Tolgay Ozbey's vicious push on Dempo defender Mahesh Gawli in the 76th minute. Gawli earned a yellow card for a similar offence on Ozbey in the 81st minute.
But the most glaring refereeing blunder came in the injury-time when Ozbey handled the ball inside own box and Pratap Singh ruled it a free-kick instead of a penalty.
East Bengal had to wait till late into the second session — when Morgan resorted to a three-man attack in desperation — to get the break. The ploy worked as the three attackers — Ozbey, Robin and Baljit — got together to successfully defeat Dempo's defence in the 68th minute.
East Bengal tallied seven points from two wins and a draw to top the group while Dempo has three points from a win and two losses. Mohammedan Sporting held Pune FC to a goalless draw in the other group ‘C' match.
The results: East Bengal 1 (Robin Singh 68) bt Dempo SC 0.
Mohammedan Sporting 0 drew with Pune FC 0.
At Pune: Mohun Bagan 2 (Barreto 41, Chhetri 44) drew with Churchill Brothers 2 (Henri Arnaud 23-pen, 59).
Lajong FC 1 (Menyongar 43) bt Royal Wahingdoh 0.