Photo Credit: Fiji Football Association
It’s still all to play for in the OFC Men’s Champions League 2024 National Playoff in Fiji after Rewa FC and Lautoka FC finished all-square in their first leg encounter at Ratu Cakobau Park.
The 0-0 draw ensures that the tie remains delicately poised ahead of the return fixture in three days time.
James Hoyt was running the show early for Rewa in humid conditions, sparking the game into life with a number of dazzling forward runs. His ball down the left-hand side of the box found young Avirosi Rabo with just Lautoka goalkeeper Beniamino Mateinaqara to beat, but the latter could only lift his effort over the crossbar from close range in what was the best chance of the first half.
Lautoka replied by asking a few questions of their own, with Muni Shivam Naidu forcing the goalkeeper to parry away from the bottom left corner of the net following a long range effort.
It was Hoyt however who almost orchestrated the opener for Rewa again, this time picking out Sami Kautoga down the right hand side of the box with a pass in behind the defensive line. Kautoga couldn’t pick out the bottom left corner from close range though, flashing just wide with the final kick of the opening stanza.
Rewa had created the better openings, but were lacking a clinical touch in front of goal in the sweltering heat.
The home team continued to control proceedings after the break, with Hoyt launching a volley just over the crossbar from the top of the box.
Rewa substitute Josaia Sela should’ve broken the deadlock with a free header at the near post following a pinpoint corner delivery, but his effort bounced inches wide of the left post.
Just when Rewa thought they couldn’t come any closer though, Epeli Valevou struck the base of the right post after finding himself one-on-one with Mateinaqara. Before Josaia Sela added insult to injury by pulling a shot just wide of the bottom left corner with only the keeper standing in his way once more.
The hosts were made to rue their missed chances in the end, with Lautoka holding on for a goalless draw, leaving the tie finely balanced heading into the second leg at Churchill Park on February 11.
The winner of the tie is set to be placed in Group A of the OFC Men’s Champions League 2024 in Tahiti in May, alongside the winners of the respective National Playoffs from Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.
Rewa FC: 0
Lautoka FC: 0