Lautoka FC topped Group A of the 2023 Digicel Fiji FACT after playing to a 1-1 draw against Ba in their final match at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva today.
A stalemate ensued in the first-half, with both sides qualified, neither was intent on having unwanted injuries going into the semifinals.
The first half finished just as quickly as it started with no scores at all.
In the second half former Ba player and now Blues coach Ronil Kumar made changes with the intention of giving bench players some game time and testing new combinations.
Young Ba fire-starter Carlos Raffa at moments displayed his skills with superb ball work to find his supporting players.
Sugar City’s Sairusi Nalaubu was also very well contained by the stern black wall.
The Blues finally broke the deadlock midway in the half with an opportune corner from defender Zibraaz Sahib which perfectly found Nigerian midfielder Usman Omede who headed it past Ba goalkeeper Tevita Koroi for the first goal of the game.
The Men in Black equalized in the 75th minute through wonder boy Nabil Begg who read a well worked through ball to score cleanly past Lautoka stopper Joela Biuvanua.
Lautoka’s Maciu Tuinuku unfortunately injured his arm and had to be replaced by Isimeli Gavidi late in the game.
Ba Head Coach Imdad Ali also bought in Etonia Dogolau replacing Begg, giving the youngster time to rest after a busy three days.
Both sides finished group stage competition with 7 points each but the Blues edged out Ba in goal difference.
Lautoka will now face Labasa in the first semifinal at 2pm on Saturday while Ba will appear in the second semifinal and their opponent will be known after the final group match between Rewa and Nadi.
Hyperchem Pharmacy Lautoka FC: Joeli Biuvanua, Zibraaz Sahib, Maciu Tuinuku, Aporosa Yada, Marika Rawasoi, Sairusi Nalaubu, Atonio Tuivuna, Sterling Vasconcellos, Usman Omede, Poasa Bainivalu, Sakaraia Naisua.
Substitutions: Epeli Vunibola, Senirusi Bokini, Alfraz Ali, Sitiveni Cavuilagi, Isimeli Gavidi, Manasa Nawakula,Ilimotama Jese, Kishan Sami, Saula Waqa.
Rooster Chicken Ba FC: Tevita Koroi, Praneel Naidu, Malakai Rere, Jonetani Newa, Raj Pillay, Rahul Naresh, Nabil Begg, Savenaca Nakalevu, Suliano Tawanakoro, Samuela Navoce, Carlos Raffa.
Substitutions: Iliesa Natau, Mohammed Raheem, Gulam Razool, Faazil Faizul Ali, Pecei Sukabula, Ratu Apenisa Anare, Etonia Dogolau.