Suva FC have been crowned Fiji Football Association Cup Tournament (FACT) 2022 champions after defeating Labasa FC 2-0 in the final over the weekend.
Goals from Malakai Rakula and Samuela Drudru ensured Suva retained the title they won in 2020 despite a nervous ending after Drudru and Anish Khem were shown red cards late on, reducing the Capital City Boys to just nine men.
Suva had booked their place in Sunday’s final at Lawaqa Park, Sigatoka, after a brace from Azariah Soromon helped them defeat Lautoka FC 2-1 in Saturday’s semi-final.
Meanwhile, Labasa edged out Ba FC in a seven-goal thriller in their semi-final, coming back from two goals down to win 4-3, with Christopher Wasasala scoring twice for the Babasiga Lions.
Both teams had previously won their respective groups so it came as no surprise they both featured in the final.
Suva relied on their set-piece prowess to secure the victory, with Rakula opening the scoring after 35 minutes in spectacular fashion. The midfielder struck a curling 25-yard free-kick beyond a helpless Atunaisa Naucukidi in the Labasa goal to score his third-goal of the competition and give Suva the advantage going into the break.
Next up it was Soromon’s turn to demonstrate his dead-ball ability. The Vanuatu international’s 35-yard dipping effort ricocheted off both posts before Drudru touched home a second Suva goal in the 70th minute to give them breathing space.
However, Labasa were given hope when just two minutes after scoring Drudru was shown a red card. Khem followed, just eight minutes after coming on as a substitute, in the 89th minute. Labasa pushed for a goal back and tested Akuila Mateisuva in the Suva goal but the reigning champions held on to spark emotional celebrations among the coaching staff as they retained their title.
Suva’s talented young defender Inoke Turagalailai scooped the Golden Ball award as the tournament’s best player and the 20-year-old had plenty of people to pay tribute to after the full-time whistle.
“It’s my passion and I play football with passion but I am honoured to be awarded for my hard work,” said Turagalailai.
“I dedicate this award to my parents who are always supportive in my football career. I also dedicate this award to the players and officials of Suva FC and its fans.”
Fiji Football Association (FFA) president Rajesh Patel praised all the teams involved in the competition and congratulated Suva on their winning effort.
“Congratulations to Suva FC for retaining their title and Labasa for proving all critics wrong and reaching the final,” said Patel.
“Coming into the final is not easy and Labasa, after poor performances in the Digicel Premier League, have proved their critics wrong with their amazing performance despite going down 2-0 in the final
“A big thank you to all the teams for making the 2022 Digicel Fiji FACT successful.”
Table-topping Suva will be looking to continue their winning form when the Digicel Premier League returns from a mid-season break later this month while seventh-placed Labasa will hope their Fiji FACT run inspires an upswing in their league performances.