Interim Labasa coach Intiaz Khan says they were hungry to beat a star-studded Lautoka side in the first semifinal of the 2023 Rooster Chicken/Scoop Ice Cream Battle of the Giants tournament at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva today.
Speaking to FijiLive after beating the Blues 7-6 on penalties, Khan said as defending champions they had to put on a strong fight and the players threw everything in the fire.
Khan said the team showed a lot of determination to play neck-to-neck till the last penalty of the match.
“I would like to thank the players first of all. It was an overwhelming performance by them.”
“The hard work paid off. We were more determined to win,” an emotional Khan said.
“They played three games but the performance today, everybody can salute the players for the way we played, the hearts we had and I think the big thing was that the fans were there to support us.”
“The good part is that we picked the HFC Bank Stadium as our home ground and that gives us extra energy which was an additional booster for the game today.”
Just two days ago, Labasa put on a strong battle to beat Ba 2-1 in the qualifying match and Khan said that also boosted the morale of the team ahead of the crucial match today.
“We had to retrieve a bit of energy, that’s why we didn’t push up at all at times. High press was there when we had chances.”
“I told the team that in Ba’s game, we need two goals which put us under pressure but today we just need to score. It was there, we fought while both times we were down.”
Both teams were tied at 2-2 at the end of the mandatory 90 minutes and Khan said dropping the tempo of the game resulted in missing out on several scoring chances.
“We had many more chances than Lautoka. We had possession. We have to defy that. Those chances may not come tomorrow in the final. When the opportunity comes, take advantage of it. That’s what we have to work on.”
“We had our plan for the game and it worked. Sairusi Nalaubu did not have any chances. In the Ba game and even today we came from behind to win.”
“It is the strikers and midfield that are clicking for us and when we get an opportunity we need to take it. Tomorrow is the final which we want to win.”
Khan revealed that during the break, he instructed the players to better their defence which paid dividends.
“Team spirit was very high. My message on the ground was to keep the defence tight. To teach how to score is bit hard.”’
“It takes time but to defend is very easy which we did. We worked on our defence line. Strategically it was a bit hard.”
“I know we are tired but tomorrow is another day and we will come back strong. For us, we know we have played two big games this week, especially against Ba.”
“Give us time; players were really tired in the last 7-8 minutes of the match. They were just walking on the pitch.”