Army survives Air Force scare to win on penalties

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Army SC held their nerve to book their place in the semi-finals, winning 4-3 on penalties after a scintillating comeback by Air Force saw the game end 2-2 in regulation time in the Cargills Food City FA Cup Quarter-Finals.

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Air Force dominated possession from the word go as they left no room for the soldiers to settle into the game.

The airmen were led by their talisman and skipper Kavindu Ishan, who made inroads behind the Army defense.

Regardless of their early persistence Air Force was not able to breach the Army defense as they were able to hold on at the back.

Yet the game turned on its head when a defense mix-up by the airmen put the Army hitman Mohamed Issadeen through as he made no mistake slotting the ball past the goalkeeper Ruwan Arunasiri, to give Army SC the lead in the 20th minute.

Unfazed by the setback the Air Force front men continued their merry way in creating more and more chances which they failed to capitalize on.

Photo Album –  Army SC v Air Force SC – FA Cup 2016

The second half began just as the first ended with the Air Force front line dominating proceedings.

With the lack of possession, frustration kicked into the Soldiers as they threw in quite a number of heavy challenges giving Air Force ample amounts of set pieces.

However, the story was the same as the first half as Air Force failed to find a telling touch to draw level.

With the game progressing as a one-sided affair it took another moment of madness by the Air Force backline putting Issadeen and the Army skipper Madushan Desilva two on one against the Air Force keeper in which they capitalized as Issadeen scored his brace in the 61st minute.

With time running out Air Force threw caution to the wind as they pushed bodies forward to get back into the game.

And get back they did with Dilshan Fernando’s looping header finding the back of the net off a Kavindu Ishan corner.

With their tails up the Airmen kept guning forward to the Army box searching for an equalizer when a moment of brilliance by Kavindu Ishan brought them level in the 74th minute.

The Sri Lanka winger took a long ball down with a delightful first touch on his right foot and slid the ball past the advancing the Army goalkeeper Nilanka Kumara.

As the half drew to a close both teams were plagued with fatigue as many players hit the turf with injuries.

The game was heading into an immanent shootout to produce a winner with the referee blowing the final whistle.

Army kicked off the spot kicks with skipper Madushan Desilva slotting the ball home as both teams converted their initial kicks respectively. With pressure mounting, Sajith Kumara flared his spot kick wide to hand the advantage to the Airmen.

Yet the momentum changed hands once again when the charismatic Kavindu Ishan’s weak penalty was saved by Nilanka Kumara.

Highlights: Army SC v Air Force SC – FA Cup 2016 QF 3

After a successful 4th kick by Roshan Appuhamy, it was advantage Army when Kumara Lankeshwara smashed his penalty right at the Army keeper.

Issadeen stepped up to take the penultimate kick for the Soldiers with his kick potential sealing the game for his team. It wasn’t to be as Issadeen uncharacteristically blasted his shot miles over the bar.

The game was decided with the 6th penalty when yet another weak penalty by Damith Dissanayake handed the game to Army after Sanka Danushka converted his spot kick.

It was nothing but drama in an end to end game throughout the 90 minutes as it had to be settled by spot kicks. Kavindu Ishan was a class act pulling all the strings in midfield weaving his magic. However, it was Army keeper Nilanka Kumara, who stole the spotlight in the shootout after a shaky performance in regulation time.

In a post-match interview, the Air Force coach, Sampath Perera expressed his views as they rued the missed chances whilst he took a lot of pride in his team’s comeback.

The Army SC coach, on the other hand, felt confident ahead of their semi-final clash against Colombo FC as he claimed that his team is ready for the challenge ahead.

ThePapare.com Player of the Match: Nilanka Kumara (Army SC)

Replay - Army SC v Air Force SC