Exciting strikes by some of the region’s most prolific goal scorers kept the 11,000 strong crowd warm on a chilly Laucala evening at the Battle of the Giants tournament in Fiji yesterday..
First it was Solomon Islands ace Commins Menapi, who struck twice for Navua to break the hearts of Rewa fans with a 3-0 drubbing.
Solomon Islander Aldrine Kilua’s goal also gave Nasinu a 1-0 win over Lautoka whose side included the likes of New Zealand-based Peni Finau and Osea Vakatalesau.
Then the loudest roar erupted when Vodafone Labasa scored twice in five minutes against defending champions Ba.
Goals by Fiji’s top marksman Roy Krishna and Vanuatu’s Jopesh Namiriau gave Labasa a 2-1 win.
New Zealand-based striker Krishna said he enjoyed playing with Namiraiu in the FMF/Blue Gas Battle of the Giants at the National Stadium last night.
"He is more experienced than I and I am learning a lot from him,"Krishna said.
Krishna and Namiriau were on the scoresheet for the 10-man Babasiga Lions while Maciu Dunadamu got Vodafone Ba’s lone goal,
Krishna was brought back by Labasa in the June transfer window, after he played for Waitakere United in NZ earlier in the season.
Namiriau, who played for Suva previously, also made the switch in June and the duo proved to be a deadly strike force.
Krishna said he was satisfied to have scored against the defending champions.
"But it wasn’t me alone, who got this win, as the whole team and coaching staff did a lot as well."
He thanked the fans for their support saying they will play be an intergral part in Labasa’s quest to win the title at Laucala.
Labasa coach Anand Sami heaped praises on his two marksmen.
"They played with a lot of confidence and showed good skills. They should get sharper as we progress," Sami said.
Ba without Coach Yogendra Datt was a shadow of a side, as it committed numerous mistakes.
Datt did not travel with the side because of job commitments and he is likely to be absent against Lautoka today.
Ba soccer president Rishi Kumar said two mistakes committed cost the side the match.
"We have to work harder now," Kumar said.
In the 18th minute, Namiriau won the ball off the Ba defenders and fed Krishna, who applied the sublime finish. The Siberia lad rifled a shot past a hapless Ba goalkeeper Jone Sorolo.
With their tails up, the Babasiga Lions backed by patriotic fans made it 2-0 in the 23rd minute.
Namiriau got the ball from the midfield and placed it calmly past Sorolo.
With all counting Ba out, skipper Avinesh Swamy marshaled his troops and led by example.
With two minutes to go in the first half, Swamy’s pile driver was saved by Labasa goalie, Shamal Kumar.
But Dunadamu was at the right place and he narrowed the deficit to 2-1 as the teams headed to the break.
Defender Samu Kautoga was shown the red card three minutes before time, for a second bookable offence.
Ba: Jone Sorolo, Avinesh Swamy, Jone Vesikula, Maciu Dunadamu, Shalen Lal, Maueli Kalou, Roneel Kumar, Kiniviliame Naika (Pita Bolaitoga), Alvin Singh, Malakai Tiwa, Josaia Bukalidi.
Labasa:Shamal Kumar, Apisalome Turuva, Roy Krishna, Joseph Namiriau (Jope Lomu), Alvin Avinesh, Taniela Waqa, Samu Kautoga, Henry Dyer, Sandip Nair, Dinesh Mudaliar (Ajesh), Nemani Rasiga.The second half saw the match in a balance but neither side managed to get on the score sheet.