The magnitude of qualifying for the OFC Champions League 2022 group stage is not lost on Lae City FC’s weekend match-winner Mathew David.
The 29-year-old scored twice in the final five minutes of Lae City’s OFC Champions League National Playoff decider against Hekari United on Saturday, securing a stunning 2-1 comeback win and a place in Thursday’s group stage draw in the process.
For David, it is a huge personal achievement, one which he has been envisaging for months.
“I knew I was going to score the goal in this match,” said David.
“I have been thinking of it since our preparation started after we returned from the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Qatar.
“I have been dreaming of playing in the OFC Champions League and now it is my turn to showcase my talent at the regional level with other island countries.”
David’s two goals were both opportunistic striker’s finishes. First, he smashed home a half-volley from close range after a defensive mix-up from Hekari United. Then, a snapshot from the edge of the box secured the dramatic turnaround at the PNG National Stadium in Port Moresby.
The goals showed David has not lost any of his killer instinct in front of goal, despite a period of inactivity.
“I am very happy with him,” said Lae City technical director Edris Kumbruwah.
“He has been without clubs since the last NSL competition, but I know he was going to deliver when he came on at half time and he delivered the two goals.”
While David was the hero, the entire Lae City team deserve credit for the victory. It seemed the fixture was drifting away from Bob Morris’s side but Hekari United attacker Ati Kepo’s red card galvanised Morris’s men and David’s goals were just rewards for the side’s late endeavour.
“I told the boys to work hard to achieve their success to win the National Playoff,” said a proud Morris of his Lae City players.
“My boys kept their heads down to work extra hard in the second half despite trailing 1-0 at half time.”
Lae City will find out their OFC Champions League 2022 group stage opponents this Thursday, June 30, when the draw is conducted at 1.00pm NZT from the OFC Home of Football – Te Kahu o Kiwa in Auckland.
Teams are not seeded for the draw so Lae City could be joined by any three opponents from the seven other qualified teams – the Cook Islands’ Nikao Sokattak, Fiji’s Rewa FC, New Caledonia’s Hienghène Sport, New Zealand’s Auckland City FC, the Solomon Islands’ Central Coast FC, Tahiti’s AS Vénus and Vanuatu’s Galaxy FC – in their respective group.