Hekari Souths United are back on track for the NSL premiership after securing a 1-0 victory over spirited Gigira Laitepo Morobe FC at Lloyd Robson Oval in Port Moresby on Saturday.
It was a morale-boosting win for Hekari after their disappointing 3-1 first round loss to Solomon Islands champion Koloale FC in their O-League opener last week in Honiara.
It was the brilliant combination of flankers Benjamin Mela and Abraham Enoch that saw Mela scoring the only goal of the afternoon in the 47th minute of play.
Mela initiated the move from the middle of the park, crossing the ball to Enoch who drove down the flanks before crossing the ball back to Mela who slotted it past the Morobean goalkeeper David Peter for the winning goal.
Hekari, however, were made to work hard for the three points as the Morobeans put in a spirited second half display.
Despite their height disadvantage, the Gigira Laitepo-sponsored team coached by Max Foster, played a more coordinated style of football than their opponents.
Morobe had a couple of opportunities in the first half but could not find the net.
Morobe strikers Yama Song and Hans Mambare played strongly up front but lacked strike power to beat Hekari goalkeeper Gure Gabina.
Former Welgris Highlander Aaron Japu and Matthew Yang used their experience to help keep the structure in their young side, and held the team together through a period of tough Hekari attacks.
Japu had a good game in the midfield with able support from Jeremy Yasasa, Eliud Fugre and Khou Lein.
Hekari had to struggle in the early stages but got their act together in the second half.
Strikers Kema Jack and Joachim Waroi both had penalty shouts waived away by referee Peter Paliwa in the second half.
Hekari coach Patrick Minity directed most of his sides play out wide as the middle of the park was waterlogged due to rain just before the match kicked off.
The strategy paid dividend when Enoch’s cross found Mela who sliced the ball into the net.
Interestingly, the match pitted family against family as Morobe coach Foster’s son Michael played in the winning team and had a run as a substitute later in the match.