The Shop N Save Lautoka side gave their loyal supporters something to smile about after the recent flooding in the western division by defeating the highly fancied Suva team by 2-1 this afternoon.
The win brought smiles to the blues fans and fellow westerners after the recent devastating floods rocked the western division.
The match however, started off on a slow pace with Suva settling down first. The Blues were without the services of Leone Vurikania, Alvin Avinesh and Fiji U23 Reps Abbu Zahid and Zibraaz Sahib.
The wet and slippery conditions didn’t help either as the players slipped and slid on numerous occasions. Suva’s Solomon Import Ralph Sharwin was a constant threat for the blues defense time and again but was well contained by the man of the match Semesa Nakosia.
As the match progressed, in-form Blues Captain Kamal Hassan had a good chance to put the team into the lead after a Maika Waqa shot deflected onto his path but his attempt was well saved by Suva Keeper Ragata. Suva on the counter was always dangerous as midfielder Nathan Shivam’s shot hit the cross bar.
As the first half was about to come to an end, the Blues started exploiting gaps in the Suva midfield as new find Cyrus Singh provided a well timed through pass to Dave Radrigai, who was on a one on one situation with Ragata. His first attempt was palmed away by Ragata but it fell onto the head of Dave who made no mistake on the second attempt.
After the restart, Suva went into attack as Sharwin skipped passed Tamanisau and placed the ball neatly to Shivam who made no mistake slotting the ball into an empty goal mouth.
Both teams rested at half time 1-1.
In the second half, Suva came out firing and was awarded a penalty after Jone Kalautani fouled a Suva player in the penalty area. Luke Haatera stepped up to take the spot kick but his attempt went over the bar.
Lautoka coached Imdad Ali made a technical switch when he brought in Edward Justin in place of midfielder Cyrus Singh. After the substitution, Captain Hassan went into midfield and Justin partnered Maika upfront.
The blues were given a free kick close to the edge of the Suva box when Arvindra Naidu was brought down by Leone Damudamu. Nakosia stepped up to take the kick. His attempt was deflected into the goal by Justin as Ragata made a dive to stop the ball but it slipped into the net.
Lautoka also brought onto the field former Suva player Leisala Vetaukula “Bond” in place of Maika Waqa who received applauses from the huge crowd which had turned up to witness the match. This change again very nearly paid dividends for coach Ali as Bond charged his way towards the goal and very nearly scored but was fouled on the last second. Referee waved play on.
In the later stages of the game Suva threw everything at the Lautoka goal but couldn’t manage to put the ball past Tamanisau. The defense was very well marshaled by Nakosia and ably supported by striker cum defender Noa Vukica as well as Malakai Waqa, Mitieli Namuka and replacement Shiva Goundar.
The match ended with Lautoka winning 2-1 which brought an end to the whites unbeaten run in the NSL. Now the blues lead the Fiji Sun GP Batteries NSL with 12 points followed by Suva also on 12 points, but the Blues have better goal difference. In third place comes in Rewa who needed an Apisai Smith goal to hold Navua 1-1 after Navua had taken the lead through Inia Boko. Labasa comes in on fourth after beating fellow Northerners Savusavu 2-0 yesterday.
Lineup: Simione Tamanisau, Semesa Nakosia, Mitieli Namuka, Noa Vukica, Jone Kaloutani(Shiva Goundar), Malakai Waqa, Cyrus Singh(Edward Justin), Arvin Naidu, Kamal Hassan, Dave Radrigai, Maika Waqa(Leisala Vetaukula)
Man of the Match: Semesa Nakosia
Image courtesy of City Star.