Captain Charitha Ratnayake’s stunning header salvages draw for Sri Lanka

Captain Charitha Ratnayake's stunning header salvages draw for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, after facing a 3-0 defeat in the first leg in Abha, Saudi Arabia, just five days ago, showed remarkable resilience in the second leg. They managed to secure a 1-1 draw, but Yemen ultimately advanced to the next stage of the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asia Cup 2027 Qualifying Round due to a 4-1 aggregate score. The thrilling match took place at the Race Course grounds on Tuesday.

Despite Yemen scoring an early goal, Sri Lanka put on an impressive performance, fighting hard to defend their territory until the 88th minute. It was at this critical moment that Captain Charitha Ratnayake scored a remarkable header, equalizing the match with an assist from Shenal Sandesh in the left corner. This goal marked the first international goal scored by a Sri Lankan in two years. Sri Lanka played an excellent game of football, although they missed a penalty kick during the middle part of the game, which ultimately played a significant role in their loss.

Before this match, Sri Lanka was ranked 202nd in the FIFA World Rankings, while Yemen, a Gulf country, held the 156th spot. Despite being the underdogs, Sri Lanka displayed determination and resilience. Sri Lanka’s goalkeeper, Sujan Perera, displayed great bravery, earning the nickname “Super Man” for his remarkable saves.

“I am really happy to secure a draw in today’s match. Three of our key players couldn’t play due to illness, but I believe our other players gave their best on the field,” said Sri Lanka’s Captain Charitha Ratnayake, who scored the only goal for Sri Lanka. “This is a sign of the rising talent in Sri Lankan football, and I hope we can continue to make progress. I’m really proud of our performance today.”

“We came onto the field with an all-out effort, although we were disappointed about missing a penalty kick opportunity, especially since it was missed by one of our senior players. Such situations can happen in a game. I believe if we had scored that penalty, we could have won 2-0. That’s just how the game goes,” concluded Ratnayake, who represents the Kurunegala Football League and is a former student of Maliyadeva College.

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