(Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek. Labasa Women FC will be hoping Stella Naivalulevu finds her goal scoring form in Monday’s crucial showdown with AS Academy Féminine)
Labasa Women FC and AS Academy Féminine meet in what shapes as a crucial match day three encounter at the inaugural OFC Women’s Champions League in Papua New Guinea on Monday.
The Fijian champions, impressive in their opening 6-0 win over Kiwi FC, suffered the heartbreak of a last minute 1-0 loss to Koloale FC in their second match on Saturday.
AS Academy Feminine meanwhile scored a 100th minute winner to stun pre-tournament favourites, local side Hekari United on Thursday and will look to maintain their 100 percent record.
The format of the tournament, five sides playing four round robin four matches each means a second defeat for Labasa would effectively rule them out of title contention. It is shaping up as a tournament where goal difference could well be crucial.
Labasa Women FC coach Arthur Simmons described the match as must win for his side.
“It’s do or die for us tomorrow” Simmons admitted. “We missed 11 chances to score in our last match, so we just let ourselves down.”
Simmons conceded his side’s depth was really being tested as he prepared the players for a third tough match in six days.
“We will have to make some changes because we have a few injuries in the squad. The other teams have been training for a lot longer than we have and that’s the reality we face, we will need to make changes to keep the squad as fresh as possible. Our opponent AS Academy Féminine rested yesterday so they are going to be fresher than us. ”
The early match at the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium in Port Moresby features Solomon Islands champions Koloale FC against the Samoan battlers’ Kiwi FC who have shown tremendous spirit despite conceding 15 goals in their two matches to date.
Leti Tamasese’s side has shown for long periods in both matches they can compete at this level, but the coach has admitted their fitness levels are not where they need to be as they’ve conceded a flurry of goals in quick succession late in the second half of both games.
” The greatest challenge for our team is matching the skill level of these seasoned teams. Every game for us is a “David vs Goliath” matchup. And obviously, this is because we are a very young team with training resources that pale in comparison with the other teams in the current tournament.” Tamasese said.
“So, I would say the challenge is mostly physical. Because in spirit, we are excited and grateful for each game, which we consider an amazing opportunity for learning and growth. We are in good spirits and looking forward to the remaining matches.” She added.
Koloale FC coach Crystal Bakolo may well take the opportunity to rest a few of her first-choice starters who left the field with minor niggles after the bruising encounter with Labasa Women FC.
“Since I have only 18 players, I need to manage them, so it’s likely Ileen (Pegy) as Mesalyn (Saipio) will play only half a game.” Bakolo said.
Catch ALL 10 matches of the OFC Women’s Champions League 2023 in Papua New Guinea, streaming LIVE and free here on OFC TV on the OFC website.
All times local:
MATCH DAY THREE
1200 Kiwi FC v Koloale FC – WATCH HERE
1700 AS Academy Féminine v Labasa Women FC – WATCH HERE