Army SC hosted Gampola’s Crystal Palace at the Kelaniya Football Complex on a hot and humid afternoon with a late goal giving them a 3-2 win.
The soldiers were coming into the game on the back of a brilliant run of form while the Hill Country side needed a win to keep their Super 8 hopes alive.
The game started off at a slow pace with both sides looking to play themselves in, in what was testing conditions. Army SC, coming in to the game as favourites bossed the early exchanges as they saw a lot more of the ball than the Gampola side.
The first clear cut chance fell to the soldiers in the 10th minute when Mohamed Fazil sent former Sri Lanka international Mohamed Isadeen on a run down the right flank; Issadeen sent in a perfectly weighted cross which was headed in by skipper Madushan De Silva to give the hosts an early lead.
Crystal Palace toiled hard to get back on level terms especially through the work of their expat players, Aba and Erastus. The loss of Mohamed Shifan didn’t help their cause as the influential midfielder picked up an injury which ended his evening very early.
After wave after wave of attack, the hill country lads finally got a chance after Shifan’s replacement, Mohamed Shamil, was felled just outside the box. The resulting free kick was worked beautifully with Isaac Aba’s dummy run creating the perfect platform through which Khalid Azmil was able to score.
Army were immediately on the offensive as they pushed to continue their fine run of form. Their skipper, De Silva, seemed to be the man that got them going as the diminutive winger’s penetrative runs put pressure on the Crystal Palace full back.
The soldiers did manage to restore their lead heading into lemons when Issadeen scored in the 42nd minute. The veteran showed his experience when he managed to position himself perfectly to meet Madushan De Silva’s cross and head into the empty net.
Half time – Army SC 2 – 1 Crystal Palace
The second half started off in far more intense fashion than the first, but quickly settled down once again.
Army were more than happy to keep the ball in midfield but certainly weren’t shy in the pursuit of a two-goal cushion. Crystal Palace on the other hand seemed to be hungry for the three points, charging every loose ball.
The pair of Anjana Wickramasinghe and Shamil Mohamed were the catalysts for the Gampola side as both of them went on repeated runs down their respective flanks, trying to pressurize the Army backline.
The half really clicked into gear in the 57th minute when Crystal Palace’s push for an equalizer finally paid dividends.
Following a foul on Erastus near the half way line, Crystal Palace was given a free kick of which Charitha Ratnayake took responsibility. Ratnayake’s diagonal drew forward the Army SC custodian who made an absolute meal of a simple catch. Aba latched on to the ball from there and hoicked it over the defenders into an empty net, restoring parity.
Both teams looked to the bench to help their final push for the three points. For Army in particular, the introduction of the pacey winger, Punsara Thiruna, seemed to have worked wonders as he did marvellously to stretch the game.
Bandara Warakagoda, the man who conceded that key foul made amends in the 85th minute however, as he managed to turn in a drilled cross by De Silva from point blank range.
Full time – Army SC 3 – 2 Crystal Palace
ThePapare.com Player of the Match – Madushan De Silva
Army Coach Mohamed Fawmy said;
“The boys have played consistently throughout the year in all the competitions. Considering this, and also the fact that this is a fully local team, I am delighted with the result. We look forward to the next stage.”
“We are very disappointed to miss out on qualifying. Last year we had qualified with a few games left as well. The team is young and has a few school boys as well, so we will try again next year,” said the Crystal Palace manager Hilmy Saleem.
Army – Madushan De Silva 10’, Mohammed Issadeen 42’, Bandara Warakagoda 85’
Crystal Palace – Khalid Azmil 27’, Isaac Aba 57’
Army – Asikur Rahuman 31’, Dilan Udayanga 35’
Crystal Palace – Jean Francois 57’