Naidu Nails Final Spot

Coach Swamy pep talk at halftime fires up Blues in Honiave Lautoka will contest its first OFC Champions League fi­nal next month. This was after the Blues beat Marist FC
30 Apr 2018 10:00
 Naidu Nails Final Spot
Lautoka celebrate the second half strike of 23-year-old Praneel Naidu on April 29, 2018.Photo: OFC

Coach Swamy pep talk at halftime fires up Blues in Honiave

Lautoka will contest its first OFC Champions League fi­nal next month.

This was after the Blues beat Marist FC 1-0 at Lawson Tama Sta­dium, Honiara yesterday.

After tying the first leg of the sem­ifinal 1-1 at Churchill Park, Lau­toka, the pressure was very much on the visiting side to come up with something special in Oceania’s most hallowed stadium.

Coming into the encounter, Lau­toka coach Kamal Swamy wasn’t phase by the idea of playing in front of a large away crowd, saying the fans would celebrate good foot­ball no matter who was playing it.

That rang true as both sides put their best football on display and proving once again that they would be tough to separate.

Swamy was elated by his side’s perseverance and ability to keep pushing after a slow start to the fixture.

Swamy 100 per cent effort

“I think the half-time pep-talk was very important for us because we knew we would be out of the tour­nament if we didn’t do something,” he said.

“We had to and give everything and then that was what they did. It’s just the players who gave 100 per cent and full credit to each of them, they deserve it.”

Marist largely dominated the first half with numerous shots putting Lautoka’s backline under pressure. But the central pairing of Brian Kaltack and Kolinio Sivoki man­aged well, while the Fijian side’s goalkeeper Beniamino Matein­aqara also making key saves to keep his side alive in the fixture.

Marist’s Atkin Kaua showed grit and determination following his re­turn to the OFC Champions League after being forced to watch the past two fixtures from the sideline with injury.

Making quick, driving runs up the flank and creating chances for strikers Mathias Iani and Abraham Iniga, Kaua was impressive and it seemed only a matter of time be­fore Marist would take the lead.

But the common theme through­out Marist’s foray in this competi­tion has been a need to strengthen in the finishing department and that once again proved to be their downfall, in particular in the first half.

For Lautoka there was no lack of chances either, although they weren’t able to get quite as many clear-cut opportunities as their op­ponents.

In the end all it took was a rare lapse in the Marist defence and an unmarked Praneel Naidu was able to beat goalkeeper Anthony Talo with a first-time hit from directly in front of the goal mouth.

Not Our Day: Allen

After pouring their hearts and souls into their performance in front of a home crowd of over 12,000, Marist were rightly disap­pointed not to be continuing what has been an exceptional journey for the club.

“It wasn’t our day today maybe,” Coach Jerry Allen said after the game.

“I think we had our chances in the first half and we should have killed the game off in the first half but we missed our opportunities.

“That’s what happens in football. If you convert your chances you will win. We played well and we kept on fighting in the second half, we created some opportunities but we couldn’t put them away.

“Lautoka played very well, espe­cially in the second half.”

Lautoka will now meet Team Wel­lington in the home-and-away final of the OFC Champions League 2018 with the first challenge a trip to New Zealand’s capital on the week­end of May 12-13 before welcoming their opponent to Churchill Park for the return leg a week later.



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