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A Blues Day

A Blues Day
Lautoka players celebrate with Fiji Football Association officials and sponsors after defending the Courts Inter-District Championship title at the ANZ Stadium, Suva on October 10, 2018. The Blues beat Suva 1-0 in the final.
October 11
10:28 2018

Lautoka defended the Courts Inter- District Champion­ship title yesterday with a smart 1-0 win over Lincoln Refrig­eration Suva at the ANZ Stadium.

The westerners played like a team that’s going to the Oceania Cham­pions League as Fiji’s winners, while Suva failed to continue from where it left off against Labasa in the semifinal on Tuesday.

It took the sugar city boys 54 min­utes to get the crucial goal that helped them triumph in the battle of the cities.

Suva’s Remueru Tekiata was caught on the ball by Benjamin To­tori who sped away on the right, de­layed and lifted it slightly for an on rushing Samuela Nabenia to head past Simione Tamanisau.

Nearly half of Suva’s starting lineup became teammates merely weeks before the tournament dur­ing Fiji Football Association’s third transfer window of the sea­son.

Latuoka, contrastingly, have a team that’s played together since the last OFC Champions League, with only a few new additions.

The movement and mobility in Suva’s midfield against Labasa in the semi-final was missing, with Lautoka setting up to nullify that threat.

The westerners possibly have the best midfield in the country at the moment and it showed against Suva.

The trio of Zibraaz Sahib, Dave Radrigai and Nabenia contained their Suva counterparts well, eas­ily finding space to send incisive passes forward for their pacy at­tackers.

Totori posed a constant threat, patrolling the channel between his midfield and lone striker Samuela Drudru almost unopposed.

He tested Tamanisau with a low shot from the edge of the box in the 27th minute and again two min­utes later with a similarly vicious strike.

Five minutes later Tamanisau mishandled a Nabenia shot but Dr­udru failed to capitalise on the re­bound from inside the six-yard box as he continued his dismal run in the tournament.

In the second half, Lautoka tar­geted Suva’s left side trying to capi­talize on Meli Codro’s tendency to drift forward and leave the defen­sive work to Laisenia Raura.

Suva’s Napolioni Qasevakatini and Bruce Hughes cut through the Labasa defence easily on Tuesday but couldn’t really get into the game in the final.

At one point in the second half, Qasevakatini had to track back as far as the centre circle to receive the ball as his midfield struggled to create opportunities for him.

Suva did have a few chances fall to them in the second half but didn’t test Lautoka’s Beniamino Matein­aqara often enough to trouble the Lautoka defence.

Codro, a recent acquisition from Ba, was to play a key role in Suva’s plan to hurt Lautoka with quick counter attacks.

But Codro was contained well by young Afraz Ali who rarely put a foot wrong in the right side of Lau­toka’s defence.

Comments:

Lautoka’s Kamal Swamy said winning the midfield battle against Suva was the key to his side’s vic­tory.

Swamy also thanked the Lautoka fans for their support and asked them to have faith in the team.

“I planned for this win and I prom­ised Lautoka Football president I would return with the trophy to the sugar city,” he said.

“We won the tactical battle in the midfield and I think that was the key today. The players understood our task and carried it out well.”

Gurjit Singh, who Suva brought in for this tournament along with a host of players, lamented his team’s mistakes.

Singh refused to answer ques­tions about his future as the coach of Suva following the loss.

“I think we played well and made one mistake that ultimately cost us the goal,” he said.

“We were very cautious and didn’t want to allow Lautoka’s midfield to play given the good players they have in that area.

“My players kept trying until the end but it was not to be.”

Edited by Osea Bola

Feedback: sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

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