Whites Move Up To Third Spot

Im­proved Rewa side move away from rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle

Fiji Sun - - Sport - SHEL­DON CHANEL Edited by Leone Cabenatabu­a Feed­back: shel­[email protected]­sun.com.fj

Rewa foot­ball coach Pita Rabo wants his side to play with hunger and pas­sion after they drew 1-1 with Suva in the Voda­fone Premier League clash at the Upris­ing Sports Cen­tre, Pa­cific Har­bour yes­ter­day.

A bul­let sec­ond half header by Jone­tani Buksh looked to have se­cured the Delta Tigers the three points un­til Suva’s Gagame Feni beat two Rewa play­ers to score the equaliser. The draw sees Suva move up to third spot of the VPL points ta­ble while Rewa move to the sixth spot.

Nickel Chand could have won it for the Cap­i­tal City side had he main­tained some com­po­sure in the 80th minute but his cush­ioned ef­fort trick­led harm­lessly wide.

Rewa looked trans­formed from the side that lost 4-0 to Nadi last week, their ap­proach prom­i­nent for its flu­id­ity in at­tack, slick pass­ing and as­sured de­fence.

Suva were al­ways go­ing to be a for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent but Rabo’s men played with a hunger not pre­vi­ously seen this sea­son. Suva were with­out de­fender Laise­nia Raura, but saw the re­turn of Joeli Ran­itu who was sta­tioned at right back in the first half be­fore mov­ing in­side in the sec­ond.

Their mid­field of Mad­wan Gounder and Jacky Ruben were over­run at times by the ag­ile duo of Te­vita Warani­valu and Setareki Hughes but re­cov­ered in the sec­ond. Rabo rued his team’s missed chances but said he was sat­is­fied with the per­for­mance. “I’ve spent more time with the team and I’m now in the po­si­tion to iden­tify the best way my play­ers can play,” Rabo said.

“I made some tough changes and it paid off. You saw that the team kept pos­ses­sion very well but the fin­ish­ing was lack­ing. If we fin­ished our early chances, we could have won 3 to 4 nil.”

His Suva coun­ter­part, Ka­mal Swamy, was dis­ap­pointed that his side didn’t get go­ing un­til they con­ceded the first goal.

“I think we fought back after go­ing down which was good but we re­ally have to work on our de­fence. It’s a con­cern that we didnt get go­ing un­til Rewa scored and we’ve been talk­ing about that for some time.

“But over­all we cre­ated chances and Rewa did too and the one they scored was a good goal so we need to watch the blind­side runs.”

Anal­y­sis: Rewa, after struggling for much of the sea­son, is fi­nally start­ing to look the part un­der Pita Rabo. The coach made sev­eral

tweaks to the side that were ham­mered by Nadi in the same venue a week ago, none more no­table than Save­naca Bale­drokadroka. The for­mer Nas­inu mid­fielder was played out of po­si­tion at right back last week but re­turned to his pre­ferred mid­field role against Suva.

Bale­drokadroka’s ac­cu­rate pass­ing and con­fi­dence on the ball was part of why Rewa dom­i­nated pro­ceed­ings in the first half. Another plus point for Rewa was the per­for­mance of 17-year-old Inoke Tura­galailai, who showed com­po­sure and determinat­ion in mid­field.

But the Delta Tigers lost mo­men­tum after go­ing ahead, al­low­ing Suva to get back into the game.

Filipe Bar­avi­lala came on in the sec­ond half to add width to Suva’s game, with young Sairusi Nalaubu moved fur­ther for­ward to sup­port Feni.

That changed the game for Suva, with Solomon Is­land in­ter­na­tional Feni be­ing the prime ben­e­fi­ciary.

Switch­ing to a back three, Suva pushed for­ward with re­newed vigour and caught their south­ern ri­vals off-guard at times. The added pace to Suva’s for­ward line cre­ated space for Feni to beat Jale Dreloa and Mo­hammed Naizal for Suva’s equaliser in the 48th. Shahil Dave was also brought on in the sec­ond half for last week’s hero Christo­pher Wasalasala and thrived along­side en­forcer Ruben. Rewa did ex­pose the weak de­fen­sive side of Dave’s game a few times but lacked the qual­ity to score the win­ner.

In the end, a draw was prob­a­bly a fair re­sult in an en­ter­tain­ing game in Pa­cific Har­bour. Mean­while, the Labasa and Lau­toka clash was can­celled due to poor ground con­di­tions.

Photo: Simione Har­a­vanua

Suva mid­fielder Nickel Chand con­trols the ball against Rewa in the Voda­fone Premier League clash at the Uprs­ing Sports Cen­tre in Pa­cific Har­bour on Au­gust 25, 2019.

Pita Rabo.

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