After securing their spots in the OFC Champions League 2018 Quarter Finals Lae City Dwellers and Nalkutan FC have set up a Match Day 3 showdown to decide who will get home advantage, while the look of the bottom half of the standings will be decided when Tupapa Maraerenga and Ba FC meet.
Two promising performances from Fiji club Ba weren’t enough to overcome either of their previous opponents, but the narrow losses give Ronil Kumar’s side hope that they can finish the tournament on a high.
Having shuffled his pack somewhat based on the loss of central defender Malakai Tiwa to suspension, Kumar also looked to try something different up front, which meant starts for Troy Watson and Narend Rao.
The pair combined well with youngster Kishan Sami who put on a mature, confident display despite being just 17 years old. However the side were still unable to make themselves a threat to Lae’s defences.
At the other end of the park, it was Ba’s goalkeeper Josaia Ratu keeping his team in the match as, despite carrying an injury, he made incredible, athletic saves to deny a worthy Lae front line from netting.
Potentially without Ratu for their final match, Ba do have former U-20 goalkeeper Misiwani Nairube to call on and with his talent and experience he should offer safety at the back.
Although Tupapa Maraerenga have struggled to impose themselves in this competition, the Cook Islands club champions showed great improvement from match one to two, and are looking to continue that in their final encounter at Korman Stadium.
Maro Bonsu-Maro netted in open play against current group leaders Lae City Dwellers, and threatened to continue that form against Nalkutan with several penetrating runs causing problems for the home side.
With both sides hoping to leave Port Vila with some consolation points in their hands, it’s bound to be an exciting match-up and will provide a perfect entrée to the final Group A match which sees the top two sides meet in the decider.
Whoever wins gets a home quarter final and both Nalkutan and Lae City Dwellers want to reward their loyal fans with that prize.
Having already set history in motion with their respective exits from the group stage of the OFC Champions League for the first time, this match should be a thriller.
Lae City Dwellers are an organised team that relies on speed, skill and organisation to undo its opponents. Raymond Gunemba, even when unwell, has shown his class in the two previous matches and with four goals remains the groups leading scorer.
But he’s not the only talent in the squad. Obert Bika is a rising star of the same vein and given a bit more time to hone his accuracy, will soon be just as lethal as his teammate.
Nalkutan FC isn’t lacking for attacking talent either, although will likely feel the loss of both Solomon Islanders James Naka and Joses Nawo who serve suspensions for the final match.
However Raoul Coulon showed he’s a crucial cog in the team line-up and if Azaraiah Soromon and Daniel Natou can live up to expectation, Lae’s Ronald Warisan will have his work cut out.
Ba FC [FIJ] vs. Tupapa Maraerenga [COK] #OFCCL #BATUP
Port Vila, Vanuatu
Friday 16 February
Kick-off: 14h00 local
(13h00 PNG / 15h00 FIJ / 17h00 COK 12/02 )
Referee: Ben AUKWAI (SOL)
Assistant Referee 1: Douglas METE (SOL)
Assistant Referee 2: Sione MAU (ASA)
Fourth Official: Mederic LACOUR (NCL)
Vital Statistics: Ba are yet to score in any of their matches at the OFC Champions League 2018.
The Players: Kishan Sami has adapted to the pace and physicality of the Champions League quickly. At 17 years old he’s Ba’s youngest player and a talent on the rise.
Coach Quote: “We are looking forward to finishing the Champions League on a high. It doesn’t matter if we’re out, we will go at it hard and try and prove that we are still competitive.”
Team List: 1. Misiwani NAIRUBE (GK), 2. Avinesh SUWAMY, 3. Meli CODRO, 4. Manasa NAWAKULA, 5. Amal SINGH, 6. Aakash SHARMA, 7. Samuela NABENIA, 8. Malakai RAKULA, 9. Abbu ZAHID, 10. Amena BOLAITAMANA, 11. Sitiveni CAVUILAGI, 12. Troy WATSON, 13. Jonetani NEWA, 14. Kishan SAMI, 15. Saula WAQA, 16. Malakai TIWA, 17. Narendra RAO, 18. Laisenia NAIOKO, 19. Shivneel SINGH, 20. Josaia RATU (GK), 21. Nathan BROWN, 22. Atunaisa NAUCUKIDI (GK), 23. Sanaila WAQANICAKAU
Coach: Ronil KUMAR [FIJ]
Vital Statistics: Previous Cook Islands club champions Puaikura met Ba in the 2017 edition of the competition, losing by just one goal.
The Players: A quiet achiever Samuel Maoate-Cox is a presence all over the pitch and is bound to have an influence on the team going into the final game. Youngster Willyn Karika stepped up as he made his first start in the Group Stage. The 17-year-old, should take it up another notch given the opportunity.
Coach Quote: “Just watching Ba in their last match, we’ve got a few clues of what we can up up against them.”
Team List: 1. Keegan INIA (GK), 2. Mii JOSEPH, 3. Sean LATIMER, 4. Teina SAVAGE, 5. Roimata KARIKA, 6. Samuel MAOATE-COX, 8. Lee HARMON, 9. Geoffrey STRICKLAND, 10. Grover HARMON, 11. Maro BONSU-MARO, 12. Willyn KARIKA, 13. Pachock ABBA, 14. Edward BROGAN, 15. Pekay EDWARDS, 16. Flynn O’Brien, 17. Tyrell BARRINGER-TAHIRI,
18. James HOYT, 20. Manaariki PIERRE (GK)
Suspended: 7. Anthony SAMUELA
Coach: Alex NAPA [COK]
Lae City Dwellers [PNG] vs. Nalkutan FC [VAN] #OFCCL #LAENLK
Port Vila, Vanuatu
Friday 16 February
Kick-off: 17h00 local
(16h00 PNG / 18h00 FIJ / 20h00 COK 12/02)
Referee: Matthew CONGER (NZL)
Assistant Referee 1: Simon LOUNT (NZL)
Assistant Referee 2: Tevita MAKASINI (TGA)
Fourth Official: Kader ZITOUNI (TAH)
Lae City Dwellers
Vital Statistics: Lae City Dwellers met Vanuatu’s previous OFC Champions League debutants Malampa Revivors in 2017 in Auckland winning 5-2.
The Players: Tutizama Tanito was the author of a crucial goal against Ba which secured his side the win. Often playing in the shadow of older brother Raymond, Troy Gunemba is emerging as a hard working midfielder. If he keeps a cool head he’ll continue to run the operation and play supplier to the front line.
Coach Quote: “Tuesday’s game has given me confidence. Nalkutan is a good team and has the home crowd behind them, but we’ve gotten used to playing in front of big crowds and against Pacific nations so we will give them a good run.”
Team List: 1. Matheson NASA (GK), 2. Maybon PWESEI, 3. Valentine NELSON, Goropaul ALBERT, 5. Mosie MILUBWA, 6. Troy GUNEMBA, 7. Raymond GUNEMBA, 8. Jacob SABUA, 9. Nigel DABINYABA, 10. Obert BIKA, 11. Adolf KUMISI, 12. Mathew DAVID, 14. Emmanuel SIMON, 15. Ken KEPE, 16. Japhet TIAMPO, 17. Billson BULO, 18. Peter DABINYABA JNR., 19. Makis GELMAL, 20. Ronald WARISAN (GK), 21. Clement WILLIS, 22. Andrew RARANGIA, 24. Tutizama TANITO, 30. Dennis GANNI (GK)
Coach: Peter GUNEMBA [PNG]
Vital Statistics: Nalkutan are yet to concede a goal in this competition and are keen to take a clean sheet into the quarter finals.
The Players: Raoul Coulon made an early exit in game one and come Tuesday it was obvious what a loss that was. A midfield maestro he pulled the strings acting as link between back and front, and topped it off with a goal.
Coach Quote: “We know they have a fast striker, they have a good dribbler, but we have a good defence too. We haven’t conceded any goals and I think we’ll play a good game to try and top the group.”
Team List: 1. John DAVID YOKAI (GK), 2. Noah ROGER, 3. Nelson SALE, 4. Kevin SHEM, 5. Robert THOMAS, 6. Raoul COULON, 7. Bob ISAAC, 8. Jean TAUSSI, 10. Bong KALO, 11. Azariah SOROMON, 12. Eddison STEPHEN, 13. Pierre ALICK, 14. Kerry IAWAK, 15. Ignace YAMACK, 16. Daniel NATOU, 18. Jeffery TES, 19. Kawia LAVA, 20. Kaloran FIRIAM, 25. Roddy LENGA, 27. Richard MANURIKI, 30. Antoine TAIWIA (GK)
Suspended: 17. Joses NAWO, 9. James NAKA
Coach: Moise POIDA [VAN]