An injury plagued Crystal Palace FC did the unthinkable as they drew 2-2 against the dominant Army SC in the Dialog Champions League, Super 8 Round 4 encounter at the Sugathadasa Stadium.
A few of the starting XI players were injured as well as two players; Buddhika Silva and Nuwan Ekanayake were ineligible to play further depleting the squad but the David’s of Crystal Palace stood up-to the Goliath, that is Army SC.
Army SC took the lead late in the first half through a wonderful volley by Sanka Danushka but it was Crystal Palace who turned things around in the second half taking the lead through a penalty by Isaac Aba and Shamil Hilmy. Danushka saved face for Army with another brilliant volley past a hapless Dasun Paranavithana.
Crystal Palace knowing they had an uphill task defended in numbers, always having men behind the ball when they lost possession and attacked on the counter. Army had a few chances but poor finishing and good defending thwarted those dangers.
Army were beginning to get frustrated when Sanka Danushka latched onto a partially cleared corner to power home a thundering volley just minutes before half time.
Not to be demoralized, Crystal Palace kept to their tasks keeping them away from the goal. One of Crystal Palace counter-attacks worked as Army’s Keerthi Kumara conceded a penalty which Isaac Aba calmly slotted home with his left foot.
Army grew ever so frustrated as they made mistakes and one such mistake by Keerthi Kumara again gave Palace the second goal. Kumara missed a clearance header where Aba and Erastus combined only to be cleared away. However the danger was not gone as Captain Shifan Mohamed turned one defender which was again Kumara, sent the ball to the byline where Erastus’ cut-back found the Kingswood U19 player, Shamil Hilmy to power home with his first touch.
Army with the Championship and reputation in the balance threw everything at them, but the Palace defense was resilient. It needed a moment of magic for Army and it came from the former Sri Lanka midfielder, Sanka Danushka who from outside the box scored to the top left corner.
Army went in search of the winner but was denied as Crystal Palace earned themselves a famous draw.
ThePapare.com Man of the Match: Charitha Rathnayake
What they had to say;
Crystal Palace Coach Devasagayam;
“A couple of players were U19 players from school. They played brilliantly and without some injured and ineligible players, the team showed great character against this Army side. Also this was the first night match for us as well.”
Army SC coach Mohamed Fawmy;
“Performance was poor but our attackers did not do their task at all. Since all three of my attackers are with the national pool I don’t get to train them and that link between them and midfield is gone.”