The Oceania Champions League kicked off this weekend with Groups A and B getting underway in Vanuatu and Tahiti.
First up in Group A at the Korman Stadium in Port Vila, Vanuatu, were the winners of the qualifying stage, Tupapa Maraerenga, who were up against the best team from Papua New Guinea in Lae City Dwellers, who could be in with an outside shot at a Semi-Final spot if things go their way.
It certainly started of brightly for the team from PNG as the two big stars of the side, Nigel Dabinyaba and captain Raymond Gunemba put them 2-0 up after only 15 minutes. Tuti Zama Tanito gave Lae an even bigger lead after 35 minutes making it 3-0. Then on the stroke of half-time, Tupapa striker Sean Latimer pulled one back for the Cook Islanders as he scored from the penalty spot. His penalty was almost saved though as he tried a chipped “Panenka” penalty that the Lae goalkeeper Ronald Warisan almost got back up to catch after diving early, but the PNG international could only get a hand to the ball and it went in.
In the second half Lae ran rampant with Gunemba, with a magnificent chip from 30 meters out, and Dabinyaba scoring within a minute of each other just after the hour mark. Then Gunemba completed his hattrick after 71 minutes and scored Lae’s final in the 82nd minute, his fourth of the day. Talented Cook Islands striker Maro Bonsu-Maro gave Tupapa a consolation goal just before the end but Lae came out on top with a 7-2 win.
Tupapa Maraerenga – Lae City Dwellers 2-7. Watch the highlights here:
In the second match in Group A hosts Nalkutan were making their Champions League debut against veterans of the tournament Ba from Fiji. The yellow-clad boys from Vanuatu did brilliantly even without wonderkid Bong Kalo, who will miss the group stage with an injury, against their much more experienced opponents.
Both teams had plenty of chances in the first half but good goalkeeping and the woodwork stood in the way of anyone breaking the deadlock.
The decision would come after 65 minutes when a shot from Nalkutan’s James Naka hit the hand of Ba’s Malakai Tiwa inside the Ba box and the referee, Mederic Lacour from New Caledonia, pointed to the penalty spot.
Naka stepped up himself and hammered the penalty home, sending the debutants into the lead.
Both sides had chances to score more goals but again the woodwork and sloppy finishing hindered any more goals in the game and Nalkutan could celebrate with the fans after securing a historic win.
Nalkutan – Ba 1-0. Watch full highlights below:
The first match from Stade Pater in Tahiti was between Erakor Golden Star from Vanuatu and the Solomon Warriors from, you guessed it, the Solomon Islands.
A close affair in the first half was followed by a close contest in the second. That was until Warriors goalkeeper Abraham Bird decided to do his own spin on Bjarte Flem’s legendary mistake that went round the world (Google it if you’re not old enough to remember) and threw the ball straight up in the air.
Brian Kaltack snapped up the loose ball and with the goalkeeper outside of his own penalty area, went for a shot. But Bird reacted like you’d expect, he put his hand out to try and save it. Only problem? He was still outside the box. That saw him get his marching orders and on came backup goalkeeper Joseph Komu.
Barry Mansale lined up to take the following free kick and the shot went straight into the top corner, way out of reach for Komu who had been on the field for all of 30 seconds.
And that was the end of the line for the Warriors as they conceded again just a minute later. Brian Kaltack, who had been firing blanks all game finally found the net with a low shot and secured a 2-0 win for Erakor who saw out the match with ease.
Erakor Golden Star – Solomon Warriors 2-0. Watch the bizarre mistake and the other highlights below.
In the final match of Matchday 1 for these two groups hosts AS Dragon took on AS Lössi from New Caledonia and it started horrible for the away side. Warren Saiko got a tackle wrong as the last man and was promptly given his marching orders after only 20 minutes of play. But the New Caledonians held down the fort and weathered the storm for the first half, even creating some chances of their own and getting a goal disallowed for offside.
Over in the second however, it didn’t take long for the home side to crank up the speed. Only a minute and a half was played when captain Tamatoa Tetauira got his head to the end of a cross and headed the Tahitian side in the lead.
After 72 minutes Reynald Lemaitre doubled the lead for Dragon as he broke through the defence and slotted the ball into the net. Just six minutes later captain Tetauira was at it again as he put the ball in the net after a scramble in the box from a corner to really take the game out of Lössi’s reach.
Then, just as the game was winding down Rainui Tze-Yu put the cherry on top as his shot also found the back of the net making the final score seem a bit bigger than it perhaps should have been. If Lössi can avoid any more red cards they have the chance of getting out of this group as they created plenty of opportunities even one man down.
Dragon – Lössi 4-0. See the goals here:
The Oceania Champions League continues tonight with Group A kicking back in action at 14:00 local time (03:00 tonight UK time) when Lae face Ba, and then at 17:00 (06:00 UK) Tupapa play Nalkutan. The next matches in Group B are on the 14th at 15:00 local time (01:00 night to 15th UK time) between Solomon Warriors and Lössi before Dragon play Erakor at 18:00 (04:00 UK).