Saunders stumble as Java Lane through to final on spot kicks
It went down to penalties, but Java Lane SC sealed a place in their first ever FA Cup final at the expense of Saunders SC with the final score line reading 1-1 (5-3) at the Sugathadasa Stadium.
After going a goal down in the second half, the Slave Island team launched an incredible fight back to go through to their first ever FA Cup Final on penalties.
Saunders had a comeback of their own in the quarter final when they defeated Blue Star SC 2-1 while Java Lane produced a complete performance to dismantle favourites Renown SC 3-1 in the other quarter final.
It was a very tentative start from both teams as neither team wanted to concede the all-important first goal. Saunders in particular was very cautious going forwards, perhaps wary of the potent threat posed by their opponents on the counter.
Indreewa Udara was once again lively for the Price Park boys and went closest to opening the scoring after his low drive beat goalkeeper Dammika Senarath, but cannoned away to safety off the upright.
Java Lane found it difficult to break down a disciplined defensive display from Saunders, with Rizkhan Faizer almost breaking the deadlock, heading an effort across the face of the Java Lane goal, after getting on the end of a delightful cross from Janaka Chaminda.
Mohamed Abdullah was also lively down the right, but time after time his cross was cut out by one Saunders defender or the other.
There were a couple of opportunities at either end that fell for Suntharaj Niresh, Chryshantha Abeysekera and Naveen Jude, but none of them caused any major concerns for the men in goal as a rather dull first half came to an end.
Half time - Saunders SC 0 - 0 Java Lane SC
Saunders got off to a more positive start in the second half causing the Java Lane defenders a few problems, especially with Chryshantha Abeysekera's corner kicks.
A string of good deliveries saw a header from Niresh graze the crossbar and then Saunders take the lead courtesy of a gaffe from Java Lane keeper Dammika Senarath. The keeper came out to punch clear a corner kick but failed to make any contact and a grateful Niresh smashed the ball home from the edge of the box to give Saunders the lead.
The response from Java Lane was to push forward furiously, but they struggled to find a way past the staunch Saunders back line.
Just as it looked like they were running out of steam, a brilliant cross from Janaka Chaminda found Naveen Jude unmarked in the middle of the box to turn the ball home and draw things level. The equalizer breathed a new lease of life into the game as both Saunders and Java Lane had plenty of chances at either end as the game grew increasingly stretched.
Neither team was able to convert any of those opportunities as the game went down to penalties following the end of the 90 minutes.
Full time - Saunders SC 1 - 1 Java Lane SC
Java Lane were spot on with their kicks as Malaka Perera, Lakmal Perera, Mohamed Aleem, Janaka Chaminda and Rizkhan found the net, but Sajith Dharmapala missed the opening penalty for Saunders and they crashed out on penalties at the semi -final stage for the second time in successive years.
Penalty Shootout - Saunders SC 1(3) - 1(5) Java Lane SC
ThePapare.com Player of the Match - Janaka Chaminda (Java Lane SC)
Java Lane coach Naza Mohamed speaking to ThePapare.com had this to say;
"As this was our first semi final we went into the game with a bit pressure on us, and that showed as we struggled to settle down at the start of the game. However by the second half we were a lot better and despite them going a goal ahead we didn't give up"
"We went into the game looking to contain Saunders and be solid defensively which showed, especially in the first half. I thought we responded well, after going a goal down, and we committed more men forward in order to get the goal. Also the introduction of Razooniya (Shabeer) also helped us to create more chances."
"We practice penalty kicks after every session we have and it is a very important part off these knockout games. Looking ahead to the Army match we will look at our tactics, and make necessary changes to try and get the win."
Saunders coach Sumith Walpola had this to say;
"We have a lot of experienced players at the back and our defence played exceptionally well, especially against the threat of Naveen Jude, who is in great form."
"After getting the goal though unfortunately we couldn't hold on to our advantage as Java Lane upped their game and their supporters really got behind their team, increasing their morale. The goal was scored from a great move it must be said. And Naveen once again was in the right place at the right time."
"I don't think we sat back to try and defend and protect our lead, to be fair I think we played better for most of the second half, however we were unable to create any clear goal scoring opportunities and it must be our bad luck to go out on penalties at this stage for the second year in succession"
"We will continue to build on this team, and our academy in the months to come. We are approaching our 100th year anniversary and we will continue training and be back for the DCL this year."
Goal Scorers Saunders SC - Suntharaj Niresh 61' Java Lane SC – Naveen Jude 74'
Yellow Cards Java Lane SC – Muneer Sally 47' Saunders SC - Suntharaj Niresh 70'
Substitutions Java Lane SC – Shabeer Razooniya for M. Abdullah 69' Saunders SC - Lakmal Fernando for Indreewa Udara 72'