November 19, 2016
New Zealand Fiji Football Inc (NZFFI) All Stars came from behind to beat Labasa 2-1 in the final pool match of the 2016 Pacific Cup at Prince Charles Park in Nadi tonight to book their spot in tomorrow’s semifinal.
However the match was marred by a lot of tense moments and controversy with New Zealand based referee Avneet Maharaj having to be escorted off the field after the final whistle.
Striker Christopher Wasasala was first to score after tapping in a beautiful through pass from Ilisoni Logaivou.
NZFFI All Stars was awarded a penalty for a foul on James Hoyt but the attempt by Abbu Zahid was saved daringly by goalkeeper Waisake Ravuiwasa as Labasa led 1-0 at halftime.
Vanuatu skipper Brian Kaltack converted two second half penalties to hand NZFFI All Stars their most important win of the tournament.
Labasa players disputed the referee’s decision to award the third penalty and a couple of officials also entered the field demanding players to walk off the field.
The situation was calmed down and play resumed. More drama continued a couple of minutes later as Labasa’s Pita Bolatoga and NZFFI’s James Hoyt were given their marching orders.
Tempers flared on both the benches and security personnel at the venue had to intervene to keep things under control.
And the match referee had to be escorted off the field under tight security as frustrated fans and officials went for him.
Quick action by security personnel kept things under control and the match referee was later taken out of the venue by a team of police officers.
By Reginald Chandar