July 21, 2018
Labasa bounced back to winning ways in the 2018 INKK Mobile Battle Of Giants (BOG) tonight at Churchill Park and defeated host Lautoka 1-0 in a thrilling Group B encounter.
Striker Thomas Steiner netted the winner for the Lincoln Refrigeration sponsored side in the 15th minute of the first half with a powerful low shot from outside the box.
After losing 0-2 to Ba last night, Coach Anand Sami made some positional changes to counter the Blues attack and defence and his game plan proved effective as they were able to contain Benjamin Totori and Samuela Drudru while a crowded midfield also distracted the Blues from settling in the middle of the pitch.
Labasa was awarded a penalty late in the first half after Kolinio Sivoki was booked for a deliberate yellow card inside the box. Ilisoni Logaivou missed the opportunity of doubling Labasa’s lead as his attempt was saved by goalkeeper Beniamino Mateinaqara.
The hosts backed up a good number of supporters from the pavilion and the embankment tried very hard to equalize but some excellent goalkeeping by Shaneel Naidu and overtime work by veteran Taniela Waqa, Ilisoni Loloivalu and Jale Dreloa kept the scores intact till the final whistle.
Blues Coach Kamal Swamy was not pleased with the performance of the match officials and claimed they were denied some scoring opportunities because of poor control.
“This was a big game and the match officials should have been on par in their decision making. I believe the penalty that was awarded against us was controversial. We were also denied some scoring chances through deliberate fouls inside the box but play was not stopped. Surely this affected the outcome of the match and I am disappointed.”
“This result makes things hard for us tomorrow and we will have to fight tooth and nail in our last match.”
Lions Coach Sami said his players gave their all because they knew the significance of the game and had to win.
“We played with a lot of urgency, good discipline and focus and I am happy with this result and now we will look at the game tomorrow and work on a plan.”
Ba currently leads Group B with 6 points while Lautoka and Labasa both have 3 points each and Tavua has no points.
Labasa plays Tavua at 1pm while Lautoka will face off against Ba at 5pm.
By Reginald Chandar