East Bengal once again had luck on their side as they registered a 2-1 victory over an impressive Prayag United SC to set up a summit clash with Salgaocar in the 33rd Federation Cup football tournament, in Kolkata, on Monday.
A controversial refereeing decision helped them beat Dempo in the last quarter-final league match. On Monday, another one helped East Bengal as they rallied to get the better of a nine-man United SC.
The Sanjoy Sen-coached side had a spectacular start as Snehasish Dutta gave them a 16th minute lead. However, East Bengal fought back after Alan Gow converted from a penalty in the 37th minute as both teams went in to the breather locked 1-1.
But there was drama in the rain-soaked second-half, which was reduced to a 11 versus nine-man battle after United's Joshimar Da Silva Martins and Deepak Mondal were given marching orders after picking two yellow cards in an action-packed last 15 minutes.
East Bengal made good use of the opportunity to score the match-winner through substitute Khan Thang Paite, who came in place for Reisangmi Vashum, in the 82nd minute.
East Bengal were lucky that Manipur referee Magho Singh did not award a penalty to United SC in the 69th minute, when Yusif Yakubu was clearly brought down inside the box by Thockchom Naoba Singh.
Luck once again favoured the defending champions, who had a similar fate against Dempo in their crucial quarter-final league match.
Joshimar led the United SC protest and got his first yellow card in the 70th minute. He was sent off with a second yellow when he brought down Saumik Dey in the 75th.
Mondal, who got his first yellow in the second minute of injury time of the first session, was the second to be sent out when he was shown a second yellow in the 80th minute.
The controversial decision had a cascading effect on the inexperienced outfit as they went on to lose two players before conceding the second goal.
East Bengal meet Goa's Salgaocar in the final, on September 29 at 1800 IST.
The match will be telecast live on News Time and DD Sports.