Northern Province defeated Eastern Province 1-0 in the semi-final 1st leg of the Ceylon Provincial League 2022, played for the Independence Trophy at the Durayappah Stadium, Jaffna.
Northern came into the semi-final finishing 2nd in the points table, undefeated with 13 points with 3 wins and 4 draws. Skipper Mariyathas Nitharshan led the way with six goals out of the 9 goals scored by the team.
Eastern finished 3rd in the points table with 11 points with two wins, 5 draws. They too were unbeaten. Eastern’s impressive defense saw Mohamed Murshid keeping 5 clean sheets out of the 7 matches.
Northern had most of the possession but it was Eastern who created two big chances early on. However, poor execution and decision making saw them squander those chances. Towards the back end of the first half, Nitharshan and Kannan Thenusan forced two smart saves from Murshid.
Eastern’s star man Rifkhan Mohamed got a bad challenge on his ankle in the 38th minute, which forced his substitution. However, no action was taken by referee Tharanga Pushpakumara.
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Early exchanges in the 2nd half saw Eastern denied two goals: one by a goal line clearance and the other through offside. Murshid had to make a couple of brilliant saves on the other end. Northern Province did find the goal they were searching for when a devastating counterattack saw Nitharshan finding Thenusan with a through ball, who made no mistake with the finish in the 71st minute.
Nitharshan had the opportunity to make it 2-0 soon after, but his effort narrowly missed the target, while Murshid had to be alert on several occasions to keep the score at 1-0. Eastern did have a good shout for a penalty late in the game but the referee was not interested.