The hometown Malampa Revivors have produced an impressive performance to stun Lae City FC 3-0 to finish top of Group B in the OFC Champions League 2020 in Luganville in Vanuatu on Friday.
The pressure was on Malampa as they needed a win to advance in the second match of the day after the Henderson Eels had come from behind to edge Lautoka 3-2 in the earlier fixture during a thrilling final day of group play.
Henderson Eels 3-2 Lautoka FC
The Henderson Eels were about nine minutes away from elimination before late goals to Raphael Le’ai and Joses Nawo helped them beat Fiji’s Lautoka 3-2.
Nawo’s strike came in the sixth minute of injury time and guaranteed his side a spot in the quarter-finals but they will be playing away from home in the next round after eventually finishing second in Group B.
Eels coach Eddie Marahare was a relieved man after the final whistle.
“I cannot express how sweet it is to come back, especially in the additional time, to win the game,” he said.
“In the second half we just had the fighting spirit to go until the end.”
The Eels weren’t even on the board until the 72nd minute when substitute Kennedy Watemae got them off the mark and from there the Solomon Islands club went on the attack.
It all looked to be going so well for Lautoka who were ahead 2-0 through goals to Shazil Ali and Jack Caunter, the latter converting his second spot kick of the tournament, but the Eels would not be denied.
Caunter said his team were brutally disappointed given they needed to win to keep their hopes alive of advancing to the next round.
“I thought we battled really well. Our plan was to sit deep and we kind of executed that really well for 60-odd minutes, didn’t give them much, had a few chances ourselves and the boys are just pretty gutted,” he said.
But in the end, it was the Eels who wanted it more and they will move on.
Malampa Revivors 3-0 Lae City FC
Andre Batick will be the toast of Luganville after the striker came back from suspension to score a hat-trick, which propelled his side to the knockout stages of the OFC Champions League 2020.
Batick missed Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Henderson after he copped a red card in the opening match but could not have scripted a more emphatic return.
The Revivors were lightning quick on the counter and it was Batick’s pace that proved too much to contain for Lae and the Vanuatu international made them pay at the Luganville Soccer City Stadium.
Lae finished the game with nine men after Nigel Dabinyaba and captain Raymond Gunemba both received their second yellow cards during the same sequence of events late in the game.
Malampa were playing in front of a boisterous home crowd and a collection of local dignitaries on a public holiday in Vanuatu. The victory ensures they will play their quarter-final in Vanuatu in April.
“We really prepared to win this game,” Malampa coach Steve Varegali said.
Despite coming in off the back of a 7-0 win over Lautoka on Tuesday, Lae were unable to breach the Malampa defence as defender Tasso Jeffrey put in another strong shift.
“It’s very disappointing,” Lae City coach Peter Gunemba said. “I didn’t expect to lose the game that way because the boys played very, very well in the last few games and we were thinking that this game was going to be our game.”