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Final hurdle

Rashneel Kumar
Sunday, June 29, 2014

THE brilliance of Ba was left in tatters as defending champion Nadi grounded the giants winning 2-0 to book its place in the Vodafone Fiji FACT final today.

There was nothing about Ba in their performance against Nadi in the tournament's first semi-final yesterday at Ratu Cakobau Park in Nausori.

The Jetsetters were just too good and shunned the Men in Black to book a date with Suva in the showdown. Suva defeated Labasa 2-1 in the other semi-final.

Ba coach Yogendra Dutt could not describe what went wrong against Nadi.

"What happened was very obvious to everybody in the 90 minutes. I won't want to describe what really happened but we have lost," Dutt said.

Nadi bombarded the Ba goalmouth from the start and missed numerous golden opportunities to break the deadlock.

Ame Votoniu headed the team into lead in the 44th minute before skipper Eliki Ravosai sealed the 2-0 win in the early second spell.

Nadi playing the 3-4-3 formation clogged the Ba midfield and dictated play with attackers like Samuela Drudru and Napolioni Qasevakatini keeping the opposition defence under pressure.

Ba defender Remueru Tekiata was sent off in the 84th minute following successive yellow cards.

Nadi coach Kamal Swamy said they had psychological advantage over Ba.

"Most of the people did not rate us which was a positive sign and psychologically we motivated the players," he said.

"We had a game plan. We saw how Ba played and then we worked on the game plan and I think the boys gave their 100 per cent and that's how we created history again by beating Ba in the semis.

"The boys showed a lot of commitment and turned up to training 5am in the morning by themselves and showed they were eager to defend this title."

The Gurjit Singh-coached Suva, which had an impressive run in the tournament so far, were forced to do some desperate defending in the latter stage against Labasa to prevail in the end.

The Capital City side took the lead in the 28th minute following a fumble from Labasa goalkeeper Epeli Loaniceva allowing Suva's Shahil Dave a free attempt at the goal.

Labasa equalised in the 67th minute through Kelepi Qaqa's header but the celebration was short-lived as Suva got back in the lead two minutes later.

An excellent free kick from Nickel Chand and a fumble by Labasa defenders allowed Sakaraia Naisua to head Suva into a 2-1 lead.

Labasa went on attack in the remainder of the match but failed to score as Suva defence guarded its territory well to ensure they remain in the race for the Fiji FACT title and $15,000 prizemoney.

Singh applauded his players for the gallant effort but expressed his disappointment on missing the services of Chand in the final today.

Chand, who orchestrated the Suva attack, was given the marching orders against Labasa following successive yellow cards.

"I think throughout the tournament he (Chand) really played well and showed his class and unfortunately he got red card," Singh said.

"We have Sakaraia Naisua and other players who we can replace him with."

Singh said they were looking forward to playing Nadi adding "its always an interesting game when we play Nadi so it should be very exciting final".

Labasa coach Bal Sanju Reddy said lethargic play in the opening half let them down.

"It was just the lapse of concentration after we scored that goal that allowed Suva to get back into the game."

Ba and Labasa will fight for the third place finish at 2pm followed by the Nadi versus Suva final at 4pm.

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