The Papua New Guinea National Soccer League has officially kicked off following a short delay with ten teams participating in the much anticipated 2019/2020 edition of the annual competition.
Defending champions Lae City FC started with a win after registering a 1-0 victory over Madang Stallions at Laiwaden Stadium in their season opener.
It was a big step up for the Madang side who managed to hold their own against their favoured opponents throughout the majority of the match.
A handball in the 87th minute by Stallions’ defender Stahl Gubag saw Lae City defender Mosie Milubwa step up to the spot where he made no mistakes in slotting past the keeper.
While his side could boast an opening day victory, there remains much to improve on for coach Peter Gunemba.
“I am happy with the win but we have so much to improve on. The match fitness overall needs to improve,” Gunemba stated.
Lae City is led by captain Raymond Gunemba who along with Emmanuel Airem, Thomas Yagum and Leanne Manase, had difficulty finding the target with his usual ease.
Much of the attacking from Lae was thwarted by the Stallions’ captain Nigel Malangian, who arrived match day to join his new teammates. Brothers Jason and Ricky Wadunah combined well in the centre of the park while Paplau Awale showed his reliability as a striker, proving he’ll be a danger-man going forward this season.
Stallions’ coach Rachel Wadunah, just the second female coach to lead a NSL men’s team, is quietly confident about the teams’ future prospects.
“We are now mentally humbled after taking on the reigning champions and to come out one goal down. We cannot go backwards from here,” said Wadunah.
Back in Port Moresby, Hekari also made a strong start to the new season of the National Soccer League with a 3-0 victory over Star Mountain.
In the Hekari-Star Mountain clash, the Tabubil boys played well but their defensive errors have let them down allowing Hekari to score three unanswered goals through Daniel Joe, Kolu Kepo and Vanya Malagian.
FC Bougainville secured their first win of the competition with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Gulf Komara.
The Bougainvilleans seemed attentive in all areas of the game and despite Gulf Komara giving them a good run for their money, the David Passam-coached side held on for the win.
With the heat taking its toll in the National Capital District capital, both teams enjoyed a fair share of possession early in the match.
But Bougainville were quick to find the back of net through striker Jonathan Allen before Daniel Vetali extends their lead to 2-0 after some good ball work by Elton Banem.
However, the David Aua-coached side eventually made their share of possession count when Pala Paul scored in the 41 minutes to send both sides to the sheds with Komara trailing 2-1.
In the second half, both teams played more confidently with FC Bougainville wasting no time in launching continuous attacks into Komara’s territory which resulted in an own goal by Komara’s Kila Gapi in the 55th minute to extend Bougainville’s lead.
Komara kept on peppering the Bougainville goal but their attempts mostly ineffectual. They were rewarded with a consolation goal in the 89th minute to Kenneth Arah to trail 3-2.
Bougainville coach David Passam described the win as a team effort.
“I’m excited for the win but we have to learn from our mistakes and take the challenge of the coming games.”
Vitiaz United 2-1 Morobe United
Lae City 1-0 Tusbab Stallions
Hekari United 3-0 Star Mountain
FC Bougainville 3-2 Gulf Komara
Kutubu FC 1-0 Morobe Wawens