FIJI-An own goal and a wonder strike from Fijian striker Maciu Dunadamau was enough for Vodafone Ba to beat Labasa 2-1 and win the FMF/Blue Gas Battle of the Giants in Suva on Sunday.
Ba went into the break leading 1-0 when Labasa defender Samuela Kautoga scored an own goal while attempting to stop a Pita Bolaitoga kick in the 10th minute.
Maciu Dunadamu scored the second in the 50th minute, when shot sailed past Labasa goalkeeper Shamal Kumar. Labasa’s goal came from midfielder Henry Dyer in the dying stages.
Ba defender Malakai Kainihewe had a special reason to smile as the solid defender turned 31 years old on Monday and the win was an early birthday gift for him. He dedicated the win to his last son, Malakai Junior.
"It’s a perfect gift," Kainihewe said.
"I want to dedicate this win to my son, who passed away in May."
It hasn’t been a good time for the rugged man, who has had to endure much in the past few months.
He lost his son just before the Fiji FACT. And there were questions raised about his fitness and playing ability in the last month.
However, he put all questions about his playing ability to rest, with a man-of-the-match performance against Vodafone Labasa.
He admitted it was hard for him building up for the tournament, but through the help of the Lord, his team mates and officials, he was able to show what his capabilities are.
"I have had to work, train and also deal with other issues," he said.
"Those were troubling times, but now I can say that I am satisfied with the win."
Kainihewe, who is the younger brother of former Fiji skipper Esala Masi, said those who doubted Ba should know the side was a close unit.
"We are like a family," Kainihewe said.
"The team has a strong bond and that helped us a lot."
Ba skipper Jone Vesikula said the side endured a lot.
"We had a lot of people say things about us, but we knew we could do it," Vesikula said.
"I thank our players for the wonderful effort."
Ba goalkeeper Nicholas Lawrence, who made the switch to the district this year from Lautoka, said there was a special reason for the win.
"Everyone came to the tournament to beat Ba," Lawrence said.
"Ba came here to successfully defend the tournament, and that we have done."
Ba soccer coach Yogen Datt said the side never thought about anyone else, but how they could better with each match.
"When we lost the first match, all thought that Ba was out, but we knew we had it to win the tournament," Datt said.