A late surge from Maris Stella College in the dying minutes was not enough as Holy Cross managed to hold off defending champions to win 2-1 in the U19 Division I semifinal clash held at Moragasmulla Grounds, Rajagiriya.
The defending champions Maris Stella College came into the match unbeaten winning all six matches they played. Led by goals scoring Anjana Gunawardena, they looked the better of the two teams to get into the finals.
Reigning Champions Maris Stella College, Negombo eased past Isipathana College, Colombo 3-0 score line in a U19 Division I group A tie worked off at St. Mary’s Grounds in Negombo.
But it was no easy task against the lads from Kalutara who have always been a tricky opposition. Holy Cross managed to sneak into the semis after beating Hameed Al Husseinie College in their final group stage fixture. Holy Cross College started off the game shocking the champions when they went up 1-0 in the third minute. Kevin Nirmal scored a thunderbolt of a free-kick from thirty yards which settled into the top left corner. Maris Stella was unable recover from the early shock as they struggled to control possession like they usually do.
Holy Cross College came from a goal down in the 2nd half to win 2-1 in a do or die game against Hameed Al Husseinie College at Holy Cross College grounds, Kalutara to book a place in the semi-finals.
The boys from Negombo played in with a 3-4-3 formation with three defenders, which meant there was plenty of space on the wings for Holy Cross to attack. With the Kalutara lads opting for a traditional 4-4-2 they bossed the game.
The Maris Stella attack led by Anjana Gunawardana found it hard to breach the Holy Cross wall. They had to settle for long rangers but the Holy Cross custodian was ready to see off any such challenge.
Holy Cross pounced again on the susceptible defence to score again and go 2-0 up. A wonderful break allowed Nirmal Udara to sneak past the two defenders and he showed ice cool composure to deposit the ball past the diving goalkeeper Umesh Sanjaya to go past Sachintha Maduranga as the highest goal scorer with ten.
After the two goals, Holy Cross camped in their half and was happy to defend till the first half whistle as Maris Stella’s desperate efforts didn’t pay off.
Half time: Maris Stella College 0 – 2 Holy Cross College
Maris Stella came out all guns blazing looking for the goals as expected but Crusaders riding on a scintillating first half performance was up to the challenge thrown out by Maris Stella attack.
Nisal Tharinda and Anjana Gunawardhana looked to make things happen but the defence led by by Kevin Nirmal and Mohamed Afdhal did their jobs resolutely.
Maris Stella got caught coming in forward on quite a number of occasions allowing Holy Cross to attack on counter. Holy Cross could have made it 3-0 when Roshen Subash reacted quickly on a goalkeeping error but his turn and hit shot was just over the bar.
Maris Stella was uncharacteristically bad on the set pieces and let opportunities go to waste.
Until the 75th minute, Maris Stella didn’t have any shots to trouble the opposition but a goal from a floating header from Anjana reignited the match. An unnecessary tackle on Nisal Tharinda gave Maris Stella opportunity to get into the match and they took it gleefully when Anjana got on the end of a Thathsara Fernando free-kick.
A nervy last five minutes began as Maris Stella started to dictate terms. A corner kick and Nisal’s volley looked like an equalizer but the last line defender managed to clear the danger away.
Holy Cross held their nerves in the last few minutes to survive a late scare and to secure their place in the finals.
Full time: Maris Stella College 1 – 2 Holy Cross College
ThePapare.com Player of the match: Kevin Nirmal (Holy Cross College)
The result meant Holy Cross remain as the only unbeaten team in the competition marking an end to the six match winning run as well as the end of the road of Maris Stella College.
Talking to ThePapare.com after the defeat, Maris Stella coach had some stern words of the team,
“We were horrible in the game today. We had time to get back in even after the early goal but we didn’t show any intent, and deservedly lost. Captain Anjana was left with no help and our midfield didn’t play as they usually do. It was one of the last days and luck didn’t favour us as well”
The winning Master In charge of Holy Cross College is jubilant after the result,
“The result was deserved and we played well. Everyone in the team played their heart out and we managed outclass the champions. Now we have to concentrate on the finals and we will be ready for that”
Maris Stella College: Anjana Gunawardhana 75’
Holy Cross College: Kevin Nirmal 03’, Nirmal Udara 19’
Holy Cross College: Kevin Nirmal 06’, Amil Chanuka 51’, Mohamad Afdal 75’, Mohamad Shahmi 80’