21 time FA Cup champions Saunders SC outplayed and outclassed a clueless Blue Star SC winning 1-0 to book a semifinal place in the FA Cup 2016.
After a number of changes in the schedule, the weather took the center stage again just as rain started pouring down before the kickoff causing a short delay. But the referees declared to commence the play after inspecting the rain soaked Race Course International Stadium.
Saunders SC started to dictate terms from the word go, leaving Blue Star SC no space to play their free style football.
Despite dominating the possession, Saunders were unable to find the back of the net. The wet ground conditions didn’t do good either as it was the Blue Star SC’s half which was affected heavily by the rain, as Saunders players struggled to move as they would have liked to.
The men in yellow had a free kick opportunity to score but captain Sanoj Sameera’s effort was safely negotiated the Blue Star goalkeeper Manjula Fernando, who did well to stop the rebound as well. The former Sri Lanka goal keeper was called into action again as he had to make another double save to keep his team in contention.
Tension started to arise as the players started to involve into arguments only to be stopped at the right time by the referee.
A lapse of concentration from the Saunders’ defenders gave Blue Star a chance to score against the run of play but Mohamed Farzeen slipped just in front of the goal missing an easy tap in. The wet pitch deprived Blue Star a chance to go 1-0 up.
Saunders SC was quick to counter but Suntharaj Niresh’s effort was cleared away by a diving defender.
Blue Star goalkeeper was tested again and again but was up for the task as he made another heroic clearance to stop a cheesy chip getting into the goal, which eventually was the last play of the first half.
Half Time: Saunders SC 0-0 Blue Star SC
It looked like Blue Star SC had the plans sorted out as they brought in their star center back Nasiru Opayemi. The change seemed to be working as Blue Star came out showing intentions to attack.
But it didn’t last long as the experienced Saunders’ midfielders led by Sameera counter attacked to leave the Blue Star defenders reeling.
Abdul Mohamed had a glorious chance to put Saunders into the lead but he shot straight at the goalkeeper despite having ample time to place.
Blue Star players went back to their ‘Park the Bus’ strategy congesting their own penalty area. Few long range efforts by Niresh couldn’t get past the defense.
But Saunders SC was quick to come up with Plan B as they played the ball around the defenders to draw some Blue Star players forward to create more space.
The ploy worked as Abdul Mohamed and Chrishantha Abeysekara combined well to counter and Abdul Mohammed tapped in the rebound, after Fernando made another save from a Abeysekara effort, to give Saunders the lead which they truly deserved in the 68th minute.
Blue Star looked lost as the players struggled to find hold of the ball.
Saunders despite scoring didn’t rest as they continued to play their brand of possession football. They did extremely well in stealing the ball from Blue Star players regularly not to give them any sort of momentum.
The final whistle was a mere formality as Blue Star no matter how hard they tried were unable to find an equalizer.
Full Time: Saunders SC 1-0 Blue Star SC
ThePapare.com Player of the Match: Manjula Fernando (Blue Star SC)
The Coach of Saunders SC, talking to ThePapare.com talked about the preparation of the team coming into the match;
“Our practicing ground was damped by this rain and we didn’t have a proper place to practice. We had to book the Futsal Court in Darley Road for one hour sessions to practice. We practiced in the grounds only yesterday.”
“We had to deal with two of our main players going to Korea for Asian Schools’ Football Tournament. But we didn’t want any excuses. We wanted to win” he added, who looked happy with the performance of his team.
Saunders SC will meet Renown SC in the semifinals of the FA Cup which is expected to be an epic battle between two giants in Sri Lankan Club Football.