2006 OFC Club Championships – Preliminary
Govind Park, Ba, Fiji
6 – 10 February 2006
Match Day 3 – Match 6
EAGLES HELD IN FINAL MATCH
Nikao end tournament on a high
Nadi-based United Eagles confirmed their place at the 2006 OFC Club Championships, New Zealand despite being held to a scoreless draw against Cook Islands champs Nikao Sokattak in their final match of the preliminary competition at Govind Park, Ba, Fiji.
And while the match ended as a draw, the result was a victory for teamwork and determination as a gritty Nikao absorbed everything the Fijians could throw at them. Nikao rarely threatened Shamal Kumar’s goal piling men behind the ball, stifling the usually free-flowing Eagles attack. The frustration was evident, culminating in an 89th minute red card to defender Josefa Tabasau.
The Eagles did manage to find the net, but Waisake Sabutu’s early strike was disallowed as the customary Nikao offside trap was called into action early. At the other end Mona Vaine Keu was proving a useful target up front regularly winning balls in the air, but a lack of support meant his knock downs went to waste.
Flamboyant Nikao goalkeeper Junior Rapena, was a standout performer for his side, coming for, and often claiming, anything in his 18-yard box for the full 90 minutes. However, his showmanship nearly cost his side dearly in the 19th minute as he was penalized for time wasting, but the Eagles could not capitalize, slamming the resulting indirect freekick into the wall.
Moments later Rapena came and missed a teasing cross from the right, leaving Valerio Nawatu with an open net to aim for, but the striker amazingly volleyed over the crossbar. Rapena redeemed himself a couple of minutes later smothering Emosi Baleinuku’s rasping 20-yard drive.
Pita Bolaitoga then forced a smart reflex save from the Cook Islands `keeper, flicking his shot off a driven cross by the overlapping Taniela Waqa. Baleinuku hit the side netting in the 43rd minute following a similar cross from Tabasau.
Soon after halftime, Rapena’s reflexes were again called into action, this time saving from his own defender, Mark Jamieson. Shamal Kumar started the sweeping move which ended up with Marika Namaqa’s cross cannoning off Jamieson towards the roof of the net.
Nawatu had a chance to make amends for his earlier miss when Waqa spilt the defence with his pass, but the striker shot straight at Rapena. Bolaitoga’s fleet footwork created an opening in the 62nd minute, but the legs of Rapena denied him, and substitute Simione Tamanisau could not convert the rebound.
The back three of Steve Willis, Paul Luiz Van Eijk, and Jamieson then saw off wave-after-wave of Eagles attack, as the Fijians were forced into bombing longballs toward the Nikao penalty area. The tactic almost paid off in the dying moments of the match as Tamanisau ghosted in behind Willis only to see his glanced header slide agonizingly wide.
The final whistle was greeted with cheers from the Nikao players and the handful of supporters that made the journey from Rarotonga. For the Eagles, Auckland awaits where they have been grouped with the representatives from New Caledonia, one of the New Zealand sides, and Vanuatu.
United Eagles 0
Nikao Sokattak 0
United Eagles – 1. Shamal Kumar (c); 2. Samuela Vula; 4. Apisalome Turuva; 5. Taniela Waqa; 7. Marika Namaqa; 9. Valerio Nawatu (13. Simione Tamanisau 60′); 10. Pita Bolaitoga; 11. Ovini Duguca (8. Usaia Tadau 60′); 15. Emosi Baleinuku; 16. Josefa Tabasau; 19. Waisake Sabutu
Subs not used – 12. Dharnesh Reddy; 18. Ratu Sireli Soqosoqo; 20. Alifereti Baileloa
Red Card – 16. Josefa Tabasau (89′)
Nikao Sokattak – 1. Junior Rapena; 2. Teatu Rangi Putere; 3. Albert Oti; 4. Paul Luiz Van Eijk; 8. Mona Vaine Keu (16. Anonga Tisam 73′); 9. Teariki Mateariki (12. Tuka Tisam 54′); 10. Steve Willis; 13. Poko-Long Pauka; 15. John Bataillard (6. Kunde Tangimetua 82′); 18. Nathan Tisam; 19. Mark Jamieson
Subs not used – 5. Tepou Taane; 11. Conrad Piri; 14. Steve Cuthers; 17. Papa Lee Ponini
Cautions – none