New Zealand Nadi Legends and Nadi Legends in a group picture after the inaugural Joe Lutumailagi Cup game in Nadi yesterday. NZ Nadi won 2-1.

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The bent FFA rule

Opinions / Analysis

A third game to decide a two-legged home and away Champion versus Champion series featuring the away goals rule - surprise, surprise!

Having followed football all over the world, where they use away goals rule like the Europa Cup and Champions League, never have I seen such a play-off decided by a third game.

The idea of the away goals rule is to make the play-off more exciting and give teams maximum chances to seal victory over two legs - even in the away game.

If there is a tie on aggregate and all square as per away goals rule in the second game - like last Sunday - then the match goes into extra-time with the away goals rule still applicable.

For example, had they played extra-time at Govind Park and the match ended in a scoreless draw of more than 1-all (say 2-all) then Nadi would have been victorious. If it had stayed 1-1 then penalty kicks would have decided the winner.

But the winner should have been decided in Ba. The third game is only for matches not featuring away goals rule.

On top of that comes the pile-up of fixtures for Ba and Nadi.

They both have hardly had any rest from last season. After the IDC came the Pacific Cup in New Zealand, then the National Club Championship, especially for the 4R Electric side comprising almost all Ba reps, now the CvC and then the league.

Judging by the slow tempo of the game in the second half, the signs of early season burn-out and fatigue is already there and lest we forget these two teams will represent us in the O League this season.

So have we done them a favour or harm by extending the CvC by another fixture?

Overall game-wise, it took a special goal from a special player (Avinesh Waran Swamy) to get Ba back into the game at 1-all. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Earlier denied by the crossbar, there was no stopping his 35-metre scorcher in the 60th minute as the Men in Black cancelled out Amani Makoe's first half header for Nadi.

Ba coach Yogendra Dutt got his tactics spot-on. Playing the attacking 3-5-2 formation, he had his wide mid-field duo of Meli Codro and Laisenia Raura to fall back and help out the back three every time Nadi had possession.

Nadi though struggled defensively for most parts of the match, especially in the first half, as their creative and attack-minded players like Rahul Krishna and William Valentine were hardly dropping back to help out every time Ba came rampaging forward.

I thought Nadi mentor Kamal Swamy would have learnt his lesson from the first leg 1-all draw and opted to close up shop and go for the one-nil win at half-time. But he stuck to his 3-5-2 attacking formation and paid the price like in the opening match.

Onto game three at Churchill Park this Saturday, the momentum is now with Ba.

With Osea Vakatalesau back, they will come out a lot stronger. My tip: Ba 2 Nadi 1.

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