August 27, 2016
Lautoka has marched into the semifinals of the 2016 INKK Mobile Battle Of Giants after beating Ba 2-1 in a thrilling Group B encounter at Ratu Cakobau Park in Nausori today.
As expected the match had a lot of fireworks on display as the western neighbours fought hard to progress further.
Lautoka went up in the 29th minute via a beautiful diving header by Zibraaz Sahib. Sahib connected well with a Valerio Nawatu free-kick to head the ball beyond the reach of goalkeeper Misiwani Nairube.
Ba managed to level scores in the 40th minute after Lautoka goalkeeper Senirusi Bokini made a blunder and headed the ball backwards into the path of Ba Captain Osea Vakatalesau to head into an empty goalmouth.
The teams rested 1-1 at halftime and the Blues managed to score their second and winning goal in the 48th minute through veteran Jone Vono who took full advantage of a central defensive mistake and slotted in a powerful volley.
Ba was reduced to 10 players after Vakatalesau was sent off following his second booking of the match.
Replacement striker Mohammed Shazil Ali missed two good opportunities at goal for Lautoka in the later stages of the match while Maveliko Nakama, Samuela Kautoga and Avinesh Swamy missed good sitters for Ba.
With the result, Ba is now in a must win situation against Labasa tomorrow. The Babasiga Lions who earlier walloped Nadroga 7-0 will just need a draw to progress to the semis as they have a better goal difference.
Lautoka faces Nadroga in its last group match at 10am tomorrow while Ba and Labasa will bring the curtains down at Ratu Cakobau Park with their clash at 4pm.
By Reginald Chandar