OFC Champions League Group B hosts Lautoka FC begin its Oceania campaign with a positive start on home soil at Churchill Park to inflict a 5-0 win over debutants FC Morobe Wawens on Sunday in Lautoka, Fiji.
Lautoka started the match on the front foot as they put the Papuan New Guineans under pressure in the early exchanges.
Vanuatu international Bong Kalo made his full debut with an outstanding performance in midfield for the Blues.
Lautoka early dominance paid off in the 11 minute when Zibraaz Sahid converted from the spot after Benjamin Totori was brought down by Jason Bendi for a penalty.
The hosts were urged by a huge home crowd as they created a number of scoring opportunities after taken the early lead.
Jason Farrock made matters worse for Morobe Wawens as he received his marching orders with a straight red card.
With a numerical advantage, Samuela Drudru and Totori missed quite a good number of chances after Farrock’s sending off.
Solomon Islands international Totori got his goal with a brilliant finish two minutes from half time to handed Lautoka a 2-0 lead at the break.
Despite playing with 10 man, the Wawens comeback with more purpose in the early minutes of the second half.
Sahid scored a brace with a powerful drive on the hour mark from a well-drilled move from the Fijians.
Kavaia Rawaqa added a fourth in the 88th minute before Drudru avenge his missed opportunities with a fifth in added time to round up a convincing win for the hosts.
Lautoka coach Kamal Swamy said he is pleased with the win but rued his team’s cutting edge in front of goal.
“Of course we missed a lot of chances, we need to work on the finishing could have scored four, five goals extra,” he said.
“We need to sit down and analyse where we went wrong, thou we won five goals but we could have done much better.”
Morobe Wawens caretaker coach Ben Micah said the better team wins on the day.
“We played a better side, a side that is on the top of the OFC league ladder,” he said.
“Unrealistic expectations of the result but unfortunately were shaken up a bit and they lost control towards the second part of the first half.
“And towards the end of the second half that is because we were one man down.”
In the early kick off, the comeback fell just short of a goal for Henderson Eels who lose their debut match in the OFC Champions League with a 3-2 defeat to AS Central Sport.
In a hot and humid afternoon in Lautoka, AS Central drew first blood on the OFC Champions league Group B.
The Tahitian side started strong and went up in the 11th minute courtesy of Sylvain Graglia on the half volley with their first real chance in game.
AS Central kept applying pressure and in the 28th minute the referee awarded a penalty that Fred Tissot missed, but score on the rebound from the keeper.
Henderson Eels had their fair share of scoring opportunities in the first half with the closest was a header from captain Boni Pride which an AS Central defender cleared off the line.
The Tahiti Ligue 1 champions held on to take a 2-0 lead at the break.
The second half carried on the same way the first half finished, Henderson Eels asking questions of the Tahitians who made their intentions clear to defend their lead.
Tahiti international Lorenzo Tehau scored a crucial goal in the 79th minute to give AS Central more breathing space.
With 10 minutes to go, Henderson Eels started a potential comeback.
Raynick Laeta pulled a goal back with his first touch of the ball after coming on as a substitute.
Tutizama Tanito scored from the spot from a penalty on the stroke of 90 minutes giving the last five added minutes a bit of thrill.
Henderson couldn’t find the equaliser and the game ended 3-2 to the Tahitians.
AS Central Sport coach Efrain Arenanda said it is very important to win the first match.
“Happy for the result, happy to win the game. It was important to win the first game of this tournament, very happy of the performance and the three points,” he said.
“Difficult, very difficult, the heat and the fatigue, hard last 10 minutes. Gave away a penalty, but the boys fought and we got the win at the end.
“At the end we were very tired, we play again in two days, which forces me to make some changes, but I’m happy for the result”.
Henderson Eels coach Eddie Marahare said his boys showed character to score two late goals but they lose in the game in the first half.
“I think the comeback in the second half was a positive side for the team, unfortunately it was in the first half that our boys were too slow to click on,” he said.
“The two early goals killed the morale of the players.
“Overall, the boys need to step up the level of confidence to keep the ball.
“We lose too many balls and made many errors, but if we could keep the ball and improve on our finishing. We’ll work on that before the second game.”
After match day one, Lautoka FC is leading the group with a superior goal difference to AS Central Sport heading into the second match day on Wednesday.
FC Wawens will be taking on AS Central Sport in the opening game on Wednesday at 13:00 while rounding up the day’s fixtures at Churchill Park is a Melanesian clash between Lautoka and Henderson Eels at 14:00 Fiji local time.