After living up to fans expectations by securing a first-ever victory in the OFC Champions League, Vanuatu club champions Nalkutan FC are keen for a repeat performance against Qualifier winners Tupapa Maraerenga.
But fans will have to wait to see the home side in action as big winners on day one, Lae City Dwellers, take on Ba FC of Fiji in Group A’s first Match Day 2 encounter.
Peter Gunemba’s Dwellers side felt they found their stride in their opening match against the Cook Islands club champions as they netted seven goals. However the two they let in will be of concern to the coach who will look to bolster his defence against what will be a determined Ba.
“I was thinking about and I said to the team, ‘Ba really want to go through to the quarter finals so it’s not going to be an easy game for us’,” Gunemba said.
“They’re a very good team and they lost their first game so they will be coming very hungry at us on Tuesday. We need to be prepared.”
Gunemba is right about Ba being hungry for a victory.
The side want to restore some pride after being outshone by the home side Nalkutan putting even a share of the points out of their grasp.
“You know, the result from the first match day was disappointing,” Ba’s Ronil Kumar said.
“We had some opportunities in the first half that we should have taken and we were punished by Lae. We’ve looked at where we made our mistakes and worked on them in training over the past two days so I hope that will show on the field.”
Making the step from Qualifier football to Group Stage for the first time in 17 years was a steep learning curve for Tupapa Maraerenga, who now face another uphill challenge against Nalkutan.
Playing with a stacked defence in an effort to contain the speed and agility of Lae’s strike force was the obvious game plan for Tupapa but it was one they struggled with. The approach left the players unsure of their roles at times and when they opened up a bit in the second half especially, they were able to better retain possession and create some opportunities for themselves.
However Alex Napa knows that taking on Nalkutan is going to require an even greater effort from his team.
“I think Nalkutan will be the top team of the competition so we will take a totally different approach,” Napa said.
“We’ll try, and I say that with the best intentions, we’ll try and contain their style of play. We know it’s going to be difficult but I think we’re going to open up our players to the opportunity to expand themselves, come to the stage and take it from there.”
After a rip-roaring start to the competition, Moise Poida believes his side is ready to continue along in the same vein.
“Everybody looked good, were well focused and the physical fitness was good,” Poida said.
“We take the matches one by one and we’re very serious about the way we play.”
Group A resumes for Match Day 2 of the OFC Champions League on Tuesday 13 February with Lae City Dwellers taking on Ba at 2pm followed by Tupapa Maraerenga against Nalkutan at 5pm.
Lae City Dwellers [PNG] vs. Ba FC [FIJ] #OFCCL #LAEBA
Port Vila, Vanuatu
Tuesday 13 February
Kick-off: 14h00 local
(13h00 PNG / 15h00 FIJ / 17h00 COK 12/02 )
Referee: George TIME (SOL)
Assistant Referee 1: John PAREANGA (COK)
Assistant Referee 2: Sione MAU (ASA)
Fourth Official: Kader ZITOUNI (TAH)
Lae City Dwellers
Vital Statistics: Seven is the most goals scored in any one game of the OFC Champions League by Lae City Dwellers. The previous best was five against Malampa Revivors of Vanuatu in 2017.
The Players: We saw the threat that Nigel Dabinyaba and Raymond Gunemba can pose when they play alongside each other. Tutizamo Tanito is another credible attacker who showed his pace and skill up the left.
Coach Quote: “We have never met them, we have never played them. Ba is a good team, they’ve been there for a long time in the Champions League and we know they are hungry to get to the top this year. We are prepared for this game and I think both teams will fare well.”
Team List: 1. Matheson NASA (GK), 2. Maybon PWESEI, 3. Valentine NELSON, Goropaul ALBERT, 5. Mosie MILUBWA, 6. Troy GUNEMBA, 7. Raymond GUNEMBA, 8. Jacob SABUA, 9. Nigel DABINYABA, 10. Obert BIKA, 11. Adolf KUMISI, 12. Mathew DAVID, 14. Emmanuel SIMON, 15. Ken KEPE, 16. Japhet TIAMPO, 17. Billson BULO, 18. Peter DABINYABA JNR., 19. Makis GELMAL, 20. Ronald WARISAN (GK), 21. Clement WILLIS, 22. Andrew RARANGIA, 24. Tutizama TANITO, 30. Dennis GANNI (GK)
Coach: Peter GUNEMBA [PNG]
Vital Statistics: Ba had just six shots at goal in their opening match, and just one of those was on-target.
The Players: Josaia Ratu had an impressive 90 minutes with Nalkutan putting some powerful shots on target which put his agility to the test. He took a knock against Nalkutan which may see him sit out the side’s second game, but among the replacements is former Fiji U-20 goalkeeper Misiwani Nairube who should provide good cover if required.
Coach Quote: “We picked up a few injuries and knocks in the first match and we’ll wait until match day to do the final assessment. All going well, we shouldn’t have many, if any, changes to our starting eleven.”
Team List: 1. Misiwani NAIRUBE (GK), 2. Avinesh SUWAMY, 3. Meli CODRO, 4. Manasa NAWAKULA, 5. Amal SINGH, 6. Aakash SHARMA, 7. Samuela NABENIA, 8. Malakai RAKULA, 9. Abbu ZAHID, 10. Amena BOLAITAMANA, 11. Sitiveni CAVUILAGI, 12. Troy WATSON, 13. Jonetani NEWA, 14. Kishan SAMI, 15. Saula WAQA, 17. Narendra RAO, 18. Laisenia NAIOKO, 19. Shivneel SINGH, 20. Josaia RATU (GK), 21. Nathan BROWN, 22. Atunaisa NAUCUKIDI (GK), 23. Sanaila WAQANICAKAU
Suspended: 16. Malakai TIWA
Coach: Ronil KUMAR [FIJ]
Tupapa Maraerenga [COK] vs. Nalkutan FC [VAN] #OFCCL #TUPNLK
Port Vila, Vanuatu
Tuesday 13 February
Kick-off: 17h00 local
(16h00 PNG / 18h00 FIJ / 20h00 COK 12/02)
Referee: Matthew CONGER (NZL)
Assistant Referee 1: Simon LOUNT (NZL)
Assistant Referee 2: Tevita MAKASINI (TGA)
Fourth Official: Mederic LACOUR (NCL)
Vital Statistics: With one more goal in the Group Stage Tupapa Maraerenga can equal the record of three goal for the club set in their debut and only previous appearance in 2001.
The Players: Tyrell Barringer-Tahiri’s work rate is outstanding. Although he’ll be upset at his role in one of the goals conceded, his ability to be putting a shot on goal, then back defending a counter attack was impressive to witness.
Coach Quote: “We’ll try and break the game into parcels of time so the players can manage it better. That’s basically how we’re going to treat the game. It’s going to be difficult, there’s no doubt about it.”
Team List: 1. Keegan INIA (GK), 2. Mii JOSEPH, 3. Sean LATIMER, 4. Teina SAVAGE, 5. Roimata KARIKA, 6. Samuel MAOATE-COX, 7. Campbell BEST, 8. Lee HARMON, 9. Geoffrey STRICKLAND, 10. Grover HARMON, 11. Maro BONSU-MARO, 12. Willyn KARIKA, 13. Packock ABBA, 14. Edward BROGAN, 15. Pekay EDWARDS, 16. Flynn O’Brien, 17. Tyrell BARRINGER-TAHIRI, 18. James HOYT, 19. Anthony SAMUELA, 20. Manaariki PIERRE (GK)
Coach: Alex NAPA [COK]
Vital Statistics: James Naka’s 65th minute penalty will go down in history as Nalkutan’s first goal in the OFC Champions League, and the winner in its first victory.
The Players: As expected the Solomon Islanders in the squad showed their class and experience, but they weren’t the only ones. Bob Isaac was all over the park, Kevin Shem did well up the flank but will need to watch his challenges, especially the late ones. Captain Jeffery Tes also impressed on his regional debut.
Coach Quote: “We look and study how our opponents play and our focus, well, we don’t lose focus. We want to beat anybody here in front of our home crowd and we want to be in the second round.”
Team List: 1. John DAVID YOKAI (GK), 2. Noah ROGER, 3. Nelson SALE, 4. Kevin SHEM, 5. Robert THOMAS, 6. Raoul COULON, 7. Bob ISAAC, 8. Jean TAUSSI, 9. James NAKA, 10. Bong KALO, 11. Azariah SOROMON, 12. Eddison STEPHEN, 13. Pierre ALICK, 14. Kerry IAWAK, 15. Ignace YAMACK, 16. Daniel NATOU, 18. Jeffery TES, 19. Kawia LAVA, 20. Kaloran FIRIAM, 25. Roddy LENGA, 27. Richard MANURIKI, 30. Antoine TAIWIA (GK)
Suspended: 17. Joses NAWO
Coach: Moise POIDA [VAN]