The Luganville Football Association have claimed the 2021 VFF National League Championship in Vanuatu following their 1-0 win over Tafea in the final at Korman Stadium.
Claude Aru provided the decisive blow from the penalty spot late in the first half in Saturday’s decider, which proved enough.
Luganville captain Edwin Bai, who was voted the tournament’s best player, said it was a proud moment for his team.
“With God first in all our plans, he will fight for you until you achieve what you aim for,” he told the Vanuatu Daily Post.
“I am happy with the boy’s performances as we were all committed to achieve this great win. We travelled far from home with an objective to return with the title back to our fans, friends and families in Luganville.”
Luganville earned their spot in the showpiece match after beating Port Vila in a penalty shoot-out in the semi-finals, while Tafea edged Penama 1-0 in their final four encounter last week.
Port Vila finished third after they topped Penama 3-1 in the battle of the losing semi-finalists; the competition began last month with two pools of four teams where the top two advanced to the knockout stages.
In the women’s competition, Port Vila were crowned champions after delivering an unbeaten campaign in the six-team tournament that concluded late last week.
Played under a round-robin format, Port Vila won four games and were held to a 1-1 draw with Shefa.
Port Vila head coach Monic Kalpukai told the Vanuatu Daily Post her team had a clear goal to win the title.
“I’m proud of my girls and we know their sacrifice and dedication has finally paid off,” she said.
“The girls worked so hard in training every day and during preparation we always [said] to ourselves that we have to come out in [the] number one position.”
In New Zealand, the ISPS Handa Men’s Premiership is moving towards the business end of the season and Auckland City FC created some breathing space for themselves at the top of the table with a 3-1 win over Team Wellington on Sunday.
Playing at their Kiwitea Street home ground, the Navy Blues produced a dominant performance as they moved six points clear of Team Wellington who remain in second on the ladder.
Team Wellington striker Hamish Watson continued in his bid for the Golden Boot with a stunning long-range strike that took him to a league-leading nine goals for the season.
Stop what you are doing and watch this Hamish Watson goal for @TeamWelly 👏👏👏
— New Zealand Football (@NZ_Football) February 7, 2021
In the other matches from the weekend, the Hamilton Wanderers solidified third place on the ladder with a 2-1 win over the Wellington Phoenix Reserves, while Waitakere United upset Eastern Suburbs AFC 4-0 and Canterbury United beat Hawke’s Bay United 2-1.
With three rounds to go, it’s all to play for as teams push for a spot in the top four to advance to the playoffs. More info from Matchweek 11 can be found here.
In the Solomon Islands, Laugu United beat Southern United 1-0 on Saturday and Isabel United drew 3-3 with Honiara City.
These were the only S-League matches that took place during the weekend as adverse weather conditions on Sunday meant two fixtures were postponed, including the top-of-the-table clash between the Henderson Eels and the Solomon Warriors.
The postponed fixtures will be played at a later date.
The Women’s National Soccer League continued in Papua New Guinea during the weekend with another exciting round of action.
Poro FC made it a perfect 10 wins from as many matches for the season in the Souther Conference with a 6-0 thrashing of Morobe Tulip FC, while Sepik FC held onto second place with a 4-0 victory over Tusbab Laidamon FC.
Markham Raings FC beat Pacific Gardens 4-0 and Bara FC squeezed past Rainy Lae 1-0 to round out the action.
In the Northern Conference, FC Genesis maintained their position at the top of the ladder with a 5-1 win over POM City FC, NCD Hekari United hammered NCD FC 9-1, and Amoana and POM City Academy completed a 0-all stalemate.
Meanwhile, ahead of the new football season in Fiji, clubs have been working hard to show their commitment to improved regulation and development opportunities.
Last month, a workshop was held to take feedback from clubs to better understand their needs before club licensing regulations are drafted.
OFC Clubs and Leagues Officer Steven Dillon said it was great to see Fijian clubs taking the chance to put some important infrastructure in place.
“Fiji have been a leading nation within OFC with their desire to implement a club development programme and have demonstrated a strong commitment to club licensing,” Dillon said.
“It’s exciting to see ongoing education being provided to our clubs to give them potential strategies for ways they can evolve and create a winning environment to perform both on and off the field.”
Since joining OFC late last year, Dillon has been busy working with the region’s Member Associations in a role that will see him provide support around how to build sustainable clubs and leagues in the Pacific.
Following the recent success of the beach soccer tournament at the Cook Islands Beach Games, the Cook Islands Football Association have decided to launch another beach soccer competition.
The tournament will run across four weeks with matches on Wednesdays and Saturdays and will feature eight men’s and as many women’s teams.
The event got underway last week and will look to capitalise on the popularity of the discipline in the Cooks.