Lae City FC have taken control of Group B in the OFC Champions League 2020 following their 7-0 win over Lautoka in Luganville, Vanuatu on Tuesday.
The result has given them a strong goal differential and while they’re in the driver’s seat to earn a home quarter-final, the group remains wide open ahead of the final match day on Friday after the Henderson Eels and the Malampa Revivors FC played out a 2-2 draw.
Lae City FC 7-0 Lautoka FC
Papua New Guinea’s Lae City scored four goals in a wild 10-minute period late in the first half of their clash with Lautoka that killed off the result.
The floodgates well and truly opened shortly after the drinks break as Lautoka had no answer for Lae’s pace up front and pinpoint finishing.
Taking a 5-0 lead into halftime meant Lae could take the pressure off in the second spell and they meandered through the final 45 minutes with two more goals.
Raymond Gunemba, Nigel Dabinyaba and Emmanuel Simon all scored a brace while Obert Bika also grabbed a goal.
Lae made a collection of changes to their starting XI and injected their Ecuadorian connection of Gustine Vergara and Abdias Aguirre while juggling some other positional switches.
Lae manager John Golupau said the result was a big improvement on their 3-3 draw with Henderson on Saturday.
“In the first game we made a lot of mistakes that we worked on in training,” he said. “We came into this game well prepared.”
Luganville turned on another smoking hot day and Golupau said his players were comfortable in the heat.
“We trained in the hot sun and they are well prepared to play in this kind of weather.”
The heat was one of the issues for Lautoka who struggled to settle into the conditions but assistant coach Avinesh Prakash said they were just outplayed.
“In the first half we fell short in our defence then we gave some easy goals away,” he said.
Despite the loss, Fiji’s Lautoka remain a chance of qualifying for the quarter-final stage if they can defeat Henderson on Friday and the other result falls their way.
Malampa Revivors FC 2-2 Henderson Eels
Hometown heroes the Malampa Revivors scored in the final minutes through super sub Armando Ravo to keep their campaign alive as they earned a vital 2-2 draw with Solomon Islands club the Henderson Eels.
The Eels looked to have stolen the three points when Joses Nawo added his second goal of the game in the 80th minute but they couldn’t hang on.
The crowd at the Luganville Soccer City Stadium came alive in the latter stages and they willed Malampa towards the draw; captain Edwin Bai had put them ahead after only five minutes before Nawo scored his first goal just before halftime.
“The thing we do well is our strength; we have strength,” Malampa coach Steve Varegali said.
Malampa, who will have it all to play for when they meet Lae City on Friday, didn’t drop their heads when they went down 2-1 and their fighting spirit has been a feature of their first two fixtures.
But this felt like a lost opportunity for the Eels and coach Eddie Marahare was disappointed with the result.
“In terms of qualification for the quarter-final stage, we still have a chance to try in our final game,” he said.
Henderson captain Boni Pride was a late scratching from the game due to a hamstring injury that will also rule him out of Friday’s clash with Lautoka.
Pride’s absence in defence was telling for Henderson who have now conceded five goals in two group games.
“It’s a big blow for us because he’s one of our experienced players,” Marahare said.