October 12, 2017
Defending champion Labasa bowed out of the 2017 Courts Inter District Championship (IDC) at Churchill Park tonight after being held to a 1-1 draw by Rewa.
The Propeller Shaft Services sponsored Babasiga Lions needed a win in their all-important fixture to progress to the semi-finals while Rewa just needed a draw.
Both teams displayed top level football and the match was pretty tight and intense in the first half with tightening their defence by replacing Mitieli Namuka with veteran Lorima Dau.
The teams rested 0-0 at halftime and the tempo of the match went up in the second half as the hunt for that all important goal became stronger.
Stylish midfielder Mohammed Zaid put Labasa up in the 68th minute with a powerful low shot which went beyond the reach of goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau and landed into the back of the net.
Rewa Coach Marika Rodu changed the formation of his team and sent four players upfront.
He also rung in a few changes and introduced Misaele Draunibaka upfront to pair up with Iosefo Verevou.
And the former Labasa rep proved to be their saviour as he netted the equaliser in the 87th minute after getting a beautiful through pass from right midfielder Epeli Saukuru.
Rodu was a relieved man after the final whistle and thanked his players for their gallant and remarkable effort.
“We played two very tough matches in the last 24 hours and I thank my players for giving their best and fighting hard. We knew Labasa would be hungry to win and this surely was going to be a very hard game for us.”
“After Labasa scored, we had to change our style and structure as we had to press hard for the equaliser. I had to push four forwards to keep the pressure on Labasa and I am happy the boys used the formation well and got us the equaliser late in the match.”
“We will now go back to the camp, rest and recover before planning about our semi-final match. We are ready to play any team and will just wait. We respect all teams and will prepare for our opponents accordingly.”
Labasa Coach Iosefo Vosaboto said it was unfortunate that his players could not hold onto their lead.
“We improved a lot and played very well but unfortunately we could not win tonight and have to return home empty handed.”
“It is really disappointing to end a tournament with only one goal but Labasa will surely regroup and get better in future.”
Rewa finishes second (4 points) in Group B and will meet the winner of Group A (yet to be decided) in the first semi-final at 3pm on Saturday.
By Reginald Chandar