Defending champions Colombo FC survived a near shock as they won 4-3 against Up Country Lions SC at the CR & FC Grounds in the opening week of the Dialog Champions League 2018.
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The 3-time back-to-back champions Colombo FC, were bolstered by the returns of Bodric Dimitri and Mohamed Imran while Up Country Lions, who finished 12th last season, had their work cut-out against the star-studded hosts.
Both teams had their fair share of chances in the opening minutes as both goalkeepers were kept busy. Dimitri struck a powerful volley on the turn and a bicycle-kick which flew just over the crossbar while Lions goalkeeper Rangana Jayasekara saved an effort from Mohamed Aakib.
The Lions brought the fight to the defending champions as they created chance after chance, and it almost paid off when a good through ball was sent into the box, but a lunging Mohamed Sadam could not get the telling touch to it.
Up Country Lions, who came in as the underdogs, stunned the Colombo faithful into silence as they struck first. A good cross was delivered and R. Manuja headed it past the diving Imran to give the Lions the lead in the 27th minute.
Aakib in the 39th minute found the equalizer capitalizing on the rebound after a Dimitri volley was brilliantly saved by Jayasekara. Mohamed Fazal, in the dying moments of the half gave Colombo the lead to end the first half on a positive.
Half Time – Colombo FC 2 – 1 Up Country Lions SC
Jayasekara was a wall on the goal-line as he made 3 brilliant saves in the early going of the second half. He was called into action yet again when he pulled off a stunning double save to keep out Dimitri yet again before the third rebound attempt was cleared off the line.
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The Lions first major chance of the half came following Imran’s attempt to parry the ball away to safety, which allowed it to fall at the feet of Mohamed Faizal, who unfortunately blasted it over the bar.
Late in the game Dimitri dribbled into the box with impressive skill before being cut down inside the box, leaving the referee to point straight to the spot. Dimitri himself stepped up to take the spot kick and slotted it perfectly into the bottom corner to score his first goal following his return.
Minutes later, another penalty was called, this time in favour of the Lions, when Faizal was taken down just inside the box. Dinesh Aberathna smashed it into the roof of the net to cut the deficit down to one goal.
Zarwan Johar, who had come in the second half, found Dimitri on the edge of the box who lofted his shot over the onrushing Jayasekara to restore the 2-goal lead to Colombo.
Up Country however, who had been resilient from the opening whistle, once again clawed back one when Aberathna, with what seemed to be an attempted cross, caught Imran off guard as the ball crept into the back of the net.
Full Time – Colombo FC 4 – 3 Up Country Lions SC
ThePapare.com Player of the Match – Bodrie Dimitri (Colombo FC)
Colombo FC – Mohamed Aakib 39’, Mohamed Fazal 45+1’, Bodric Dimitri 80’ & 86’
Up Country Lions SC – R. Manuja 27’, Dinesh Aberathna 85’ & 89’
Up Country Lions SC – Ayaakwah Akzawame 79’