Fiji Fact champions Lautoka edged Tailevu Naitasiri 3-1 in Round 17 of the Digicel Fiji Premier League at Churchill Park on Saturday and have extended their lead in the competition.
Lautoka, despite the services of midfielders Aporosa Yada and Sterling Vasconcellos, who are currently representing Fiji at the OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier in New Zealand played with a lot of confidence and determination.
On the other hand, Priyant Mannu mentored Tailevu Naitasiri took the field without its key goalkeeper Jason Rokovucake, who is also away on national duty while Samuela Nasava took charge of the goalkeepers position after his impressive performance in their 2-1 win against Nadroga a week ago.
Both side’s battled hard in the first 40 minutes of the match but national striker Sairusi Nalaubu broke the deadlock in the 45th minute after breaking off from the midfield and defeated two Naitasiri defenders and slotted the ball past goalkeeper Nasava, who was off his guard.
In the additional minutes of half time, Nigerian striker Usman Omede doubled the lead for the Blues to give them a 2-0 lead at the break.
After some stern prep talk by Mannu at the break, Naitasiri came out firing through Abhishek Deo pulling one goal back for the side to merge the gap at 2-1 in the 57th minute.
A few minutes later, Lautoka was awarded a free kick when some Naitasiri defenders fouled Omede outside the penalty box.
Zibraaz Sahib took the free kick and landed it at the back of the net to seal the win for the table leaders.
After 17 appearances, Lautoka continues to top the table with 37 points while T/Naitasiri is sixth with 21 points.
In other matches on Sunday, bottom-placed Tavua will host Labasa at 2pm at Garvey Park.
In a doubleheader of matches at the Uprising Sports Centre in Pacific Harbour, Suva will take on Nadi at 1 pm followed by the clash between Navua and Nadroga at 3pm.