NIGERIAN Akpogbidi James was his club's saviour in the feature match of the Navua Football Association local league competition yesterday.
His Combine Brothers took on Sangam FC in one of the two matches in the final round of round-robin pool games before the quarter-finals.
Combine was tipped to win despite missing several current and former district reps — brothers Rajnil, Rohit and Monit Chand together with striker Sailosi Livatalo and Pranil Kumar.
Rajnil is in New Zealand, Monit had work commitment, Kumar has joined League FC while Livatalo and Rohit have switched districts to Lami.
Sangam, fielding 54-year-old Govind Sami, held their own in the first half despite the opposition enjoying possession and territorial advantage.
In the second half, Combine coach Garib Chand switched from 4-4-2 to a 3-4-3 formation and made some positional changes.
This added more bite and thrust to their attack with three strikers spread out well using the width of the field to suck out the opposition defence that was well caged in the first spell.
Combine created several chances with Navua rep Vineet Chand in the thick of things but former rep Serevasio Doli and others missed many sitters - with the woodwork being struck at least four times.
Sangam duo, sweeper Vipal Prasad and goalkeeper Ronil Permal worked overtime in defence.
Five minutes from time, James stepped up to blast home a penalty to give Combine a 1-0 win after Chand was brought down in the box.
Combined finished top in pool two followed by Sangam, Naitonitoni Rovers and Jolly Brothers.
In pool one, the Nasir Hussein-managed League FC, favourites to win the competition, were top finishers ahead of Vakabalea FC, Eagles FC and the Navua U21 side.
The quarter-finals and semi-finals will be played tomorrow.Yesterday's results: Wainiveidio FC 0 Eagles 0; Vakabalea beat U21 by default; Calia FC 2 Combine Two 1; Naitonitoni Rovers 0 Jolly Brothers 0; Combine 1 Sangam 0; U21 beat Barbarians FC by default.
Tomorrow's fixtures:9am, League FC-Naitonitoni Rovers; 10.20, Combine Brothers-Eagles; 11.40, Vakabalea FC-Jolly Brothers; 12.50, Sangam-Navua U21; 4pm, Winner game one-winner game three; 5.20, winner game two-winner game four. Final to be played later.