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ANALYSIS: Goals Galore, Bad Weather Hit Round One Round

ANALYSIS: Goals Galore, Bad Weather Hit Round One Round
Suva striker Setareki Hughes (right) shields the ball from Sairusi Nalabu of Rewa during the Vodafone Premier League opener at Ratu Cakobau Park, Nausori on January 14,2018. Photo: Peni Komaisavai.
January 18
11:00 2018

Three thoughts on the action from the first round of the Vodafone Premier League matches last Sunday.

Old Hands Return to Haunt Rewa

 

Suva dispatched their southern rivals Rewa in a competitive and wet Vodafone Premier League opener at Nausori’s Ratu Cakobau Park. Fans watched in agony as two of their own dissected the Rewa defence with creative ease.

A transfer battle looms over several key Rewa players planning a switch to the capital city. The heartbreak of a derby loss may worsen for the ‘Delta Tigers’ should Suva manage to pry away these players.

Meanwhile, on the other side, Hughes brothers Setariki and Bruce were in blistering form. The way Setareki caressed the ball past the goalkeeper with both power and precision was a testament to his rapid growth since emerging at national Under-17 level.

He showed sparks of his talent last season but interim coach Riyaz Ali faces to a level at which he can truly influence a game.

Tevita Waranivalu, who was excellent all afternoon, made the visiting fans nervous with his late strike. But, the truth is, Suva never really lost control after gaining a two-goal advantage in the first half. Waranivalu is one of the players linked with a move south and if it does materialise, Ali will have secured an industrious talent capable of causing damage operating from a position just behind the striker.

 

Nadi Cruise to Victory Despite

Early Hiccup

Two goals from Napolioni Qasevakatini proved decisive for Nadi as league games in the west continued despite a heavy downpour.

Ba’s Samuela Nabenia claimed a fortuitous goal from a hopeful Avinesh Suwamy cross but the visitors played at half pace throughout the season’s opener. It was difficult for both teams to string together even a few passes under the deteriorating weather conditions and Nadi will be happy to have secured an important three points. This victory should set the tone for coach Babs Khan’s season. They stayed in the battle for the league title for some time last season but fell short of mounting a serious enough challenge for neighbours Lautoka. A win on opening day against a team that has historically done well in the league should bring optimism to the Jetsetters.

Ba’s poor form from last season has carried over to the New Year. Fiji Football Association president Rajesh Patel told Lautoka to “pull up their socks” after defeat in the Champion Versus Champion series, annoying Blues’ fans. Days later, Ba, who will contest this year’s Oceania Champions League, find themselves needing some sock pulling of their own.  The team performed in patches at Prince Charles Park, failing to threaten the home side after Nabenia’s goal. The weather did them no favours. Ba likes to play with the ball at feet and Shalend Lal’s team could not adapt to the heavy conditions.

 

Lautoka Recovers from CvC loss

 

If newly-promoted Tavua coach Saroj Kumar was given an option to choose his opponent for the opener before the season began, Lautoka would have been the last team he picked. The Blues have a line-up of players that put even the best teams in the country on alert, let alone a freshly promoted one. And Lautoka just showed Kumar the scale of his task in the nation’s premier soccer competition. Goals from Praneel Naidu, Siotame Kubu, Samuela Drudru and a double from the enterprising Christopher Wasasala secured an easy victory for the Sugar City team. If thoughts of the unexpected loss to Labasa a week ago remained in the minds of the fans, it was quickly forgotten. Kamal Swamy has the luxury of calling on some of the best talents in the local scene. But his teams have traditionally struggled in the Oceania Champions League. While Lautoka has the depth to handle both domestic and regional competitions, fans will be worried fully focusing on the Champions League may affect results at home. Either way, a performance of high quality in front of their home fans is a must at Churchill Park.

 

Edited by  Osea Bola

 

Feedback:  sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

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