Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek

Narieta Leba’s first-half double for Labasa Women FC has given the Fijian side a much needed win at the OFC Women’s Champions League, setting up a fascinating finale in Group B over the weekend.

After AS Academy Féminine’s loss to Auckland United earlier this afternoon, Labasa and Veitongo came into their second group stage match knowing that only a win would keep either team in genuine semi-final contention, with a loss confirming an early trip home.

With so much on the line, both teams took a little while to settle into their rhythms, with neither creating any real clear cut chances in the early stages.

As Labasa hit their stride, the warning shots came, and in the 24th minute the Fijian champions came close. Anaismeci Volitikoro’s shot off a rapid counterattack stung Madison Tenifa’s gloves, with Sonia Alfred unable to finish the rebound as Veitongo’s defence scrambled.

A minute later and Labasa would find their opener. Shayal Sindhika’s through ball was pounced on by Narieta Leba, who rounded the on-rushing Tenifa before cooly rolling the ball into the empty net to break the deadlock.

Veitongo’s Ana Polovili thought she’d secured a quick equaliser as Selai Tikoisuva seemed to spill her shot, but Labasa’s goalkeeper had done just enough to divert the ball away for a corner.

A little over five minutes before the half-time interval, Labasa got their second, through Leba once again. Holding off Ana Lauteau, the forward created space for herself before firing a low effort into the corner and beyond the outstretched grasp of Tenifa.

Veitongo failed to really threaten in the second half, as Labasa’s back four contained the threat of Polovili, with the Tongans struggling to build much in the way of momentum and service for their frontline. 

Their best chance came in the middle of the half, when Tamaa Faletau broke away to beat her marker, cutting back to the oncomng Malia Masalu, but the substitute’s shot was dragged wide.

Aware that goal difference could become crucial in the race for a semi-final place, Labasa continued to press for a third, with Unaisi Tuberi coming close – latching onto a failed clearance, only for her powerful half volley to whistle narrowly over the crossbar.

The Fijian side continued to push for more goals in the dying minutes but were unable to add to their first-half tally as Veitongo – and the impressive Madison Tenifa – held firm.

With Labasa Women FC and Auckland United both on four points and AS Academy Féminine on three, the Fijians have set up an electrifying final group game with the reigning champions to determine who will progress to the knock out stages.

Labasa Women FC: 2 (Narieta LEBA 25’, 39’)
Veitongo FC: 0

HT: 2-0