A stunning late equaliser has meant Rewa FC have drawn 1-1 with Suva FC in the first leg of their OFC Champions League 2023 National Play-Off.
The rain came tumbling down on HFC Bank Stadium in Suva from start to finish, making for challenging conditions for both sides. Rewa coach Marika Rodu sprung a bit of a surprise by naming Emori Ragata in goal ahead of Fiji national squad member Mohamemed Alam, and also had U-17 star Delon Shankar on his bench.
Suva coach Maxwell Thaggard included new Solomon international call up Marlon Tahioa in his starting team, led by Samuela Drudru.
Unsurprisingly, the chances in the first half were few and far between, given the weather and the fact that it was a first leg fixture. Azariah Soromon tried his best for Suva, but getting the ball into the box was an often frustrating endeavour as his players found themselves well marked.
Referee Veer Singh brought his yellow card twice in the first half, against Drudru and Filipe Baravilala,
It took well into the second half for the first real shot on goal, when Rewa brought on Samuela Nabenia. The midfielder made a searching run down the sideline then cut it to let off a powerful shot just outside the box. It drew an excellent save from Akuila Mateisuva, who landed heavily and required some treatment in the aftermath. It sparked a period of dominance of possession for the next period.
Which was why it was very much against the run pf play that Dave Radrigai found himself with the ball near halfway and played a beautiful ball forward to Soromon. He took it into the box and finished beautifully to put Suva up 1-0.
Rewa fought back, with Setariki Hughes almost grabbing a goal straight away, but Suva weathered both the rain and the attack. They certainly had a case for a penalty after 72 minutes, but referee Singh waved play on when Mateiseva charged off his line and made contact with a Rewa player.
A good free kick and goal mouth scramble shortly after almost led to an equaliser, but Suva’s defence held firm. Iosefo Verevou thought he’d scored in the 80th minute after another scramble, but Mateiseva managed to just keep his shot from crossing the line.
Suva managed to defend effectively into stoppage time, however with almost the last kick of the game, Rewa finally got rewarded for their efforts. A cross went over the head of Mateiseva and cannoned off the post, right into the path of Nabenia to head home and leave Suva in shock as they watched all their hard defensive work go to waste.
The result sets up a mouth-watering return leg on Sunday back at HFC Bank Stadium.
SUVA FC 1 (Azariah SOROMON 62’)
REWA FC 1 (Samuela NABENIA 90+5’)