Tavua clinched the 2023 New Zealand Fiji Football Incorporated (NZFFI) Visa Solutions Inter District Championship (IDC) beating fan favorites Nadi 7-6 in a penalty shootout at Bill McKinley Park in Auckland today.
The match started off at a fast pace with both sides launching early attacks on goal.
Tavua guided by former Lautoka and Navua coach Amit Prakash missed two early sitters through Alvin Avinesh and Ivan Kumar.
Samuela Kautoga led Nadi threatened Tavua with some good attempts through experienced strikers Sairusi Nalaubu, Dave Radrigai and Samuela Drudru.
Andrew Naicker almost got the opener for Nadi as he saw goalkeeper Aydin Mustahib off his line and chipped the ball over, but it went a couple of inches above the uprights.
Both teams rested goalless at the break.
After some stern prep talk by the team president Reginald Prasad and the coach, Tavua make an impactful start in the second stanza.
It was Jason Lagos, who scored the opener for the gold miners powering in a powerful strike from 40meters yards out which Nadi goalkeeper Benaminio Mataniqara misjudged.
A few minutes later, Tavua’s Alvin Avinesh was flashed a yellow card for a foul play on Nadi’s Hiro Kim.
Deep in the injury time, Nadi was awarded a penalty after Ravinesh Narayan was fouled inside the box.
Sam Mason-Smith riffled the ball past Tavua goalkeeper Aydin Mustahib for the equaliser.
The match went into penalty shootout which saw Tavua scoring from all their attempts while Mustahib saved one Nadi attempt to seal the win.
Tavua coach Prakash said their hard work paid off beating a star-studded Nadi and thanked his players for their outstanding performance throughout the tournament.
“Feels amazing,” a victorious Prakash said.
“Thank the players for playing their hearts out. We had a few injuries which the boys overcame. This win is for the people of Tavua in Fiji.”
Team president Prasad it was the first time for Tavua to reach the final and winning it was the icing on the cake for the side.
“The preparations and hard work from players, officials and sponsors have been paid off. Team bonding was the key and everyone believed in each other.”
“Quiet special for us. First time playing in the final and winning means a lot. Nadi was a champion team and beating them is just an amazing victory,” Captain Salesh Kumar added.