A 10-men Tailevu Naitasiri fought back to hold second place Lautoka side to a 2-all draw in round 16 of the Digicel Premier League at HFC Bank Stadium on Sunday.
Defending champions Lautoka needed a win to climb on top of the point’s table ladder but the newcomers spoiled their party after coming from behind to draw.
The Sky Blues captain Jone Naraba scored the opening goal in the 33rd minute after calmly lopping the ball past Lautoka goalkeeper Joela Buivanua but it was cut short two minutes later after midfielder Aprosa Yada found the equaliser after beating the Tailevu Naitasiri defense.
Just before halftime, Tailevu Naitasiri midfielder Lorima Batirerega was sent off for double booking.
The Salen Lal coach Lautoka side had an advantage in the second half with an extra man which saw Yada getting his brace in the 56th minute.
In the 72nd-minute replacement Abhishek Deo was fouled by defender Epeli Leiroti in the penalty box referee Suraj Prakash did not hesitate to award a penalty to Tailevu Naitasiri.
Mohammed Naizal rose to the occasion and took a low shot which was saved by Biuvanua but he was lucky to find the net with the rebound.
Lautoka now has 29 points after 16 appearances and remains in second place while Tailevu Naitasiri remains in ninth place with 11 points.
Lautoka coach Salen Lal said they didn’t expect the result but hats off to the Tailevu Naitasiri.
“They played really well in the second half with ten men. We tried to score but I think we will need to work more on our finishing,” said former Ba rep
‘I can’t say much as we know this is football and we have dropped two points which is not something good for us but we will see how it goes in the remaining games,”
“We have taken game by game, we have two games left probably we will want to win but we will see how it goes,”
“Our focus is now on Rewa and Nasinu matches,” said Lal
Tailevu Naitasiri assistant coach Priyant Manu praised his boys for the never say die attitude.
“Hats off to the boys for the courageous fight against a more experienced team with one man down,”
“The boys really played their heart out and I salute them for the great show,”
“Our aim remains to stay in the Premier Division and we will work on our finishing for the remaining two matches against Ba and Labasa,” said Manu