Chalani double sends Sri Lanka through to semis
Sri Lanka deservedly beat Maldives 2-0 with goals in each half by Chalani Ekanayake in the 5th SAFF Women’s Championship 2019 group B encounter, played at the Sahid Rangshala Stadium Biratnagar, Nepal.
Sri Lanka came into the tournament with a target of reaching the semi-final from the group which consisted of India and Maldives. Maldives came into the game with a 6-0 loss to India and Sri Lanka had the advantage of viewing both teams before this game.
From the kick-off, Sri Lanka women were on the front foot with all play taking place in the Maldivian half. The play was scrappy from both teams with little quality in the game as the players were often crowded around the ball.
Erandi Liyanage playing in the right-wing position was the target lady as all play went through the right flank. Several set plays came in the way of Sri Lanka. However, the quality of delivery failed the Lankan lasses.
When delivery finally came right for the side in the 20th minute, the Lankan’s pre-maturely celebrated a goal which was disallowed for a foul on the goalkeeper.
Erandi then got a golden opportunity to score the first goal. Playing a solo act inside the box with a well weighed through ball she could only manage to hit it high and wide. Anywhere near the target would have resulted in a goal as the goal keeper was flat footed.
Immediately after, Erandi once again missed a sitter, this time even closer than the previous occasion. A free kick by Imesha Madushani fell to Erandi who once again hit over the crossbar from a couple of feet from the goal.
Achala Snajeewani, Nilukshika Kumarai and Chalani Ekanayake played well in the midfield to keep the ball inside the Maldivian half. Imesha Madushani was in the heart of attack and defense.
In the 40th minute Sri Lanka was awarded a free kick just outside the box. Skipper Liyanage stepping up hit a low shot straight at the goalkeeper Ameenath Leeza who failed to collect and rebounded. Chalani lurking around had the simple task of tapping in from the line to give a deserved lead to the Lankans.
Just before the break Maldives got a rare attacking opportunity but Ayomi Wijerathna in goal for Sri Lanka read the situation well and came out to collect to ensure they went into lemons with a goal's advantage.
Half Time – Maldives 0 - 1 Sri Lanka
The second half started as the first with Sri Lanka women having the possession in the attacking half.
With 5 minutes in the second half passed, Chalani scored her second with a brilliant first time shot to the top corner. Achala Sanjeewani made the hard work in the right wing and sent in a sublime cross in allowing Kumari to seal the deal.
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Sri Lanka continued to dominate play and their work rate was excellent in both halves of the field. Fitness level looked to have improved immensely from the previous tourneys as they did not give space for Maldives to make their move.
With the game seemingly won, Sri Lanka made changes bringing in Poornima Perera, Praveena Perera and Madushani Ariyarathna in place of skipper Erandi Liyanage, Chamantha Salomi and Nallavarage Madushani.
In the final 10 minutes, Maldives managed to trouble the Sri Lankan defense, however, keeper Ayomi was strong between the bars and the defense managed to clear away any danger. Sri Lankan’s too had a couple of chances to increase the lead however the Maldivian defense and Ameenath Leeza in goal held on.
With this win Sri Lanka book their place in the semifinal and Maldives have lost both their games. Next game against India will be to decide who heads the table. Sri Lanka will have their work cut out as the Indian team displayed some high-class football in their win against Maldives.
ThePapare.com Player of the Match: Chalani Ekanayake
Full Time - Maldives 0 - 2 Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka - Chalani Ekanayake 41’ & 50’