Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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10-man Labasa holds Nadi to stay alive

A 10-man Labasa outfit came from two goals down to hold Nadi 2-2 in their second Group B match of the 2023 Digicel Fiji FACT at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva today and keep its semifinal hopes alive.

The match started off on a fast pace with both sides launching early attacks on goal.

Nadi’s Christopher Kumar and Tuiba Batiratu missed two good sitters in front of the goalmouth while Labasa Captain Taniela Waqa and Ashnil Raju had their shots blocked.

Vuniuci Tikomaimereke opened the account for Nadi in the 16th minute after getting a neat feed from Ame Votoniu.

Immediately after, Labasa coach Thomas Vulivuli made an early change, pulling out  Waqa and replacing him with Ilisoni Lolaivalu in the 20th minute to add more firepower to their forwards.

Three minutes later, Fiji Under 20 stylish striker Eneriko Matau doubled the lead for the jetsetters with a powerhouse attempt that gave veteran goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau no chance whatsoever.

Nadi coach Kamal Swamy fielded former Fiji Under 20 extended squad member Nikesh Singh in place of Josua Tawake to add more freshness to their midfield.

Tremendous support and cheering from the Labasa fans saw Digicel Bula Boys midfielder Raju pull one goal back for the Babasiga Lions in the 30th minute.

A few minutes later, referee Kavitesh Behari flashed a yellow card to Labasa’s Lekima Gonerau for a dangerous foul on Matau.

Nadi maintained its 2-1 lead at the break.

Some stern talk and by Vuliviuli in the change room saw Labasa make an impressive start in the remaining stanza of the game and reached out to the goalmouth through seasoned striker Edwin Sahayam and Iliesa Lino.

Nadi youngster Tevita Ravia took the field in place of experienced goalkeeper Vereti Dickson, who was carried out after sustaining a feet injury while Bula Boys striker Christopher Wasasala replaced Sekove Naivakananumi for Labasa.

With 15 minutes to go, Labasa was reduced to 10 players when Gonerau was sent off after copping his second yellow for an intentional foul on Batiratu while Ratu Tulivou was also awarded a yellow card for a foul play on Labasa’s Doidoi.

Labasa was awarded a free kick after Nadi players brought down Sitiveni Rakai in the 89th minute.

Sahayam got the equaliser for the Northerners after he blasted in a free-kick which caught goalkeeper Ravia completely off-guard.

Both teams had equal chances in the 10 additional minutes of play but neither failed to snatch a win.

Esy Kool Nadi now has two draws and will face Rewa in their last match tomorrow at 5pm while Extra Supermarket Labasa will battle against Tailevu Naitasiri at 11am.

The teams:

Labasa FC: Simione Tamanisau (GK), Lino Iliesa, Sitiveni Rakai, Edwin Sahayam, Ilaisa  Vulimainavuso (Simione Ragoneturaga), Rusiate Doidoi, Ashnil Raju, Akeimi Ralulu, Lekima Gonerau, Taniela Waqa (C) (Ilisoni Lolaivalu), Sekove Naivakananumi (Christopher Wasasala).

Reserves: Atunaisa Naucukidi, Joji Vuakaca, Ilaitia Dike, Sailosi Tawake, Christopher Wasasala, Shivam Shandil, Nehal Lal, Josua Raqamu, Netani Suluka.

Nadi FC: Vereti Dickson (GK), Vishant reddy, Shaeel Valentine, Christopher Kumar, William Valentine, Eneriko Matau, Tuiba Batiratu, Ame Votoniu (C), Josua Tawake (Nikesh Singh), Ratu Tuliu, Vuniuci Tikomaimereke.

Reserves: Tevita Ravia, Ratu Halstead, Jone Raivalita, Leo Lesumai, Apolosi Seru, Eshan Kumar, Nilkash Prasad, Muni Nair, Muni Nair, Khartik Chetty.

Romeka Romena
Romeka Romena
Journalist | news@fijilive.com

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