Group B in the OFC Champions League 2020 got underway with two action-packed games in Luganville, Vanuatu on Saturday.
Penalties, goals and cards flowed in a day that produced two draws as no side was able to take an early lead in the pool’s standings.
Lae City FC 3-3 Henderson Eels
Lae City and Henderson delivered an OFC Champions League classic with a high-scoring draw at a white-hot Luganville Soccer City Stadium.
Both teams had their time with the lead in a match where three penalties were awarded.
Papua New Guinea’s Lae opened the scoring through Emmanuel Simon in the opening minutes but Henderson didn’t drop their heads.
Tuti Zama Tanito converted his first spot kick of the game in the 24th minute and when Raphael Le’ai scored his maiden Champions League goal shortly after, the Eels took a 2-1 lead to the break.
After a quiet opening to the second spell, the game exploded back into life just after the hour-mark.
In a nine-minute period, Lae scored twice – Simon got his second (a penalty) and Nigel Dabinyaba found the back of the net – to take the lead before Tanito’s second penalty levelled the match at 3-3 in the 70th minute.
Despite having a host of chances, Solomon Islands club Henderson couldn’t deliver the winning strike in a game that also featured four yellow cards.
“In terms of attacking, I was quite pleased with the pace and the chances that we created but the one thing is the lack of finishing, it was a bit poor,” Henderson coach Eddie Marahare said.
Lae coach Peter Gunemba said he was pleased that his side fought back from a goal down.
“Both sides had their chances to win, we had equal chances of scoring goals,” Gunemba said.
Lautoka FC 1-1 Malampa Revivors FC
Hometown side the Malampa Revivors will have heavy legs tomorrow after putting in extra miles during their draw with Fiji’s Lautoka.
Revivors forward Andre Batick was shown a red card in the 35th minute for a dangerous tackle, leaving Malampa with only 10 men.
Playing short-handed didn’t dampen their endeavor though and for much of the contest they looked the more likely team to score a winner.
They made countless breaks against the run of play as the match wore on – clearly adapting to the conditions better – but they were unable to break the deadlock.
Both sides got on the board within the first half hour as Azariah Soromon opened the scoring for the home side before Lautoka import Jack Caunter converted a penalty to even the ledger.
Penalties were a theme of the day and Soromon had the chance to put his side in a position to bank all three points, but he blasted his second-half penalty attempt over the crossbar.
Malampa played in front of a noisy home crowd who roared every time the Revivors went on the attack and coach Steve Varegali was pleased with his team’s effort.
“Yes, we are really happy with the point and we believe that our players have done very well,” Varegali said.
Lautoka’s goalkeeper Liam Anderson was busy throughout the game and played a key role for his side in his Champions League debut.
“Liam played very well, the keeper saved a couple of goals,” Lautoka coach Ananda Swamy said.
“I’m happy with the point but the performance, playing against 10 players, we should have grabbed the three points.”
Everyone will be back at it again in Group B on Tuesday on match day two.