The SLSFA U19 Division I Championship has arrived at the grand finale and only the two best teams remain standing.
ThePapare.com has a look at what to expect in the big final.
St.Joseph’s College v Holy Cross College (21st December at 4.00pm at Moragasmulla Grounds)
The two sides who finished their respective groups in 2nd place find themselves in the championship battle.
Route to Final
Holy Cross College
Holy Cross qualified in second place from Group B with 14 points. Despite only managing draws with Zahira and Royal in the group stages, with other results going their way, a win over Hameed Al Husseinie in their final group game was enough to seal a spot in the semis.
v Royal College 1 – 1 (draw)
v St.Peter’s College 2 – 1 (won)
v Ananda College 6 – 0 (won)
v Zahira College 1 – 1 (draw)
v Lumbini College 2 – 0 (won)
v Hameed Al Husseinie College 2 – 1 (won)
Holy Cross College 2 – 1 Maris Stella College (Semi-Final)
Holy Cross dominated the defending champions Maris Stella in their semi-final right from the start after an early thunderbolt of a free kick from Kevin Nirmal put them in front in the 2nd minute.
Top marksman Nirmal Udara doubled the advantage before Anjana Gunawardena pulled one back for Maris Stella with 5 minutes of game-time left, but the lads from Kalutara held on to qualify for a shot at schools’ football’s biggest prize.
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.
St. Joseph’s College
St. Joseph’s notched up exactly 15 points in the group stage, but had to be satisfied with qualifing in second place after losing 2-1 to Maris Stella. They scored 22 goals along the way to the semis, which is the highest in the division.
v St. Sebastian’s College 4 – 1 (won)
v St. Benedict’s College 2 – 1 (won)
v Kingswood College 2 – 0 (won)
v Maris Stella College 1 – 2 (lost)
v Wickramabahu College 7 – 1 (won)
v Isipathana College 6 – 0 (won)
St. Joseph’s College 0 (4) – 0 (3) Hameed Al Husseinie College (Semi-Final)
St. Joseph’s saw their semi final go the distance after the game finished scoreless at full time with Asela Madushan missing a couple of gilt-edged chances in an end to end game of football against Hameed Al Husseinie. The Josephians kept their cool in the shootout and prevailed 4-3 from the spot kicks to book their berth in the finals.
St. Joseph’s College beat Hameed Al Husseinie College in the second semifinal encounter of the U19 Division I Football tournament.
Nimesh Salinda, Asela Madushan and Sachintha Maduranga will know all about their opponents as the 3 former Holy Cross players go up against their old schoolmates in what should be a tantalizing battle.
Speedsters Madushan and Maduranga have formed a lethal partnership up front for the Josephians and despite missing a couple of chances in the semis, they will be full of confidence in the build up to the big game.
Josephian Skipper Mayuraka Perera will also have a tough task on his hands in marking forward Nirmal Udara who goes in to the final at the top of the divisional scoring charts with 10 goals.
Holy Cross on the other hand will be buoyed by their superior performance against the much fancied Maris Stella team and will go into the final full of confidence.
Nirmal Udara sits at the top of the pile in terms of scoring and at the other end they have shown the defensive grit necessary to keep quality opposition forwards quiet, led by powerhouse Kevin Nirmal who could be lethal from free-kicks, as he showed in the semi-finals.
Shavinda Fernando was instrumental in keeping Maris Stella ace Anjana Gunawardane quiet for most of the semi-final and will play a key role in ensuring none of his former teammates have the space to work their magic in the final.
Holy Cross came away with a slender 1-0 victory over St. Joseph’s in the Kotmale U19 Championship group stage earlier this year after a goalkeeping error helped Holy Cross steal all 3 points.
The final will be a completely different battle on a pitch which is far better than the Ratmalana surface they played on that day.
Tense match between St. Joseph’s College and Holy Cross College Kalutara saw a goalkeeping error on St. Joseph’s side only to be capitalised by Holy Cross College.
What to Expect
Holy Cross out-muscled Maris Stella for much of their semi-final and it is likely that the high-physicality tactics that worked for them in the semis will be employed in the final as well.
They will need to be careful with regard to player discipline and conceding free kicks in dangerous areas though, which was how their opponents were able to get past their defence in the semi-final. They may go in as slight underdogs again, but they’ve beaten more fancied teams en route to the final.
St. Joseph’s plays a fast paced game and will need to find a way to not let the Holy Cross team slow down the game and disrupt their momentum.
A lot will depend on how their striking partnership up front fare, as the defence led by their skipper looked solid and composed against the Hameedians who play a similar style of football as them. It will be a different game to what they had to go through in the semis and they will need to adapt quickly to get their hands on the trophy.