Southern teams dominate DPL opener

The Digicel Premier League 2022 season kicked off with a bang with all southern teams dominating round one of the competition.

The first match of the season saw NZOTC Nasinu side beating an experienced Labasa side 2-0 at the ANZ Stadium in Suva.

Nasinu proved they are the traditional Giant Killers after fighting hard to beat the Babasiqa Lions in the last quarter of the match.

Labasa featured without the likes of veteran Taniela Waqa, Iliesa Lino, goalkeeper Akuila Mataisuva and newly signed Christopher Wasasala while they had new goalkeeper Atunaisa  Naucakidi, Pawan Singh, Edwin Sahayam, Ilaisa Nayasi, Ashnil Raju, Ratu Apenisa Anare, Ilisoni Logaivou, Manasa Levaci (Mosese Nabose), Lekima Gonerau, Siotame Kubu, Rajiv Sharma (France Catarogo).

The Mira Sahib-coached Nasinu side had unknown players with goalkeeper Viliame Rakuro was the man of the match with several saves despite getting an early injury.

Debutant Tevita Rakariva opened Nasinu’s account in the 83rd minute after neatly placing the ball to the right of goalie Naucukidi after getting a through pass from Iliesa Rakuka while former Savusavu midfielder Michael Chan sealed the win two minutes later.

Newcomers Tailevu Naitasiri created a major upset beating All in One Builders Nadi side 3-0 at Prince Charles Park in Nadi.

It was surely a dream start for the Nigel Khan coached as they sit on top of the DPL points table after the end of round one.

Former Rewa striker Epeli Valevou was first to score a goal in the 2022 Digicel Premier League while Nadi’s Ame Votaniu was first to get the marching orders.

Valevou scored the opener in the 21st minute and Rusiate Qio doubled the advantage in the 40th minute.

The Kamal Swamy-coached Nadi side made several attempts at goal in the second half, but Tailevu Naitasiri proved why they deserved a spot in the premier division.

They ran riot in the second half and with Abhishek Deo scoring the final goal of the match in the 61st minute.

Rewa overcame Ba in a tough battle in match three of round one at the ANZ Stadium in Suva.

Both teams displayed quality and entertaining football with equal opportunities but failed to utilise as they took the breather locked 0-0.

The Delta Tigers at the halftime break brought in their recruits Rusiate Matererenga, Abbu Zaid and Iosefo Verevou to add more power up front.

Matarerega starred in his first outing for Rewa scoring the lone goal in the 75th minute after a powerful kick by Verevou bounced back into the field which was easily headed by Matarerenga past running Ba goalkeeper Tevita Koroi.

The Daniel Krishneel coached Men-in-Black tried its best to get the equalsier but the Rewa defence led by goalkeeper Mohammed Alam, Peniame Drova, Kishan Sami and Iowane Matanisiqa stood tall for the Delta Tigers.

Navua proved their worth in the top-tier competition after coming from behind to beat Nadroga 3-1 at home.

Nadroga came in strong from the blow of the whistle showing majority possession in the first half.

It was Nigerian national Jibola Afonja who after many attempts at goal, kicked a subtle goal from the corner in the 29th minute.

Navua managed to regroup during the halftime break and it showed just two minutes into the game as Zainal Ali deflected the ball of the goalkeeper to score a goal.

Nadroga tried to maintain the pressure but Navua was awarded a penalty just five minutes to full time after a foul from Nadroga.

Netani Doli did not waste time and kicked right into the net leaving Navua in a 2-1 lead.

Navua’s third goal came from Mannav Permal as he dribbled his way into the box leaving no room for the Nadro defenders to touch him.

The feature match of round one was a thriller between the two cities as expected.

Suva fielded seven of its new signings- Samuela Navoce, Inoke Turagalailai, Anish Khem, Marlon Tahioa, Samuela Drudru, Radrigai and Malakai Rakula while goalkeeper Akuila Mateisuva was unavailable for the battle of the cities clash.

Striker Sairusi Nalaubu beautifully connected with a midfield pass to net Lautoka’s opener in the 30th minute.

The Blues led 1-0 at the breather but Suva entered the second spell with more urgency and determination.

Suva coach Babs Khan made some changes in the second half taking off Drudru and Navoce who were replaced by Merrill Nand and Mohammed Ramzan.

Suva started the second half firing which saw a corner kick by Rakula connected with a Radrigai header to beat veteran goalie Beniamino Mateinaqara and level up the scores to 1-all.

Khan replaced Taiho with nippy Shahil Dave which brought in more urgency and determination in the Whites camp which saw Radrigai getting the winner just before the full-time.

Tailevu Naitasiri


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