During an action-packed weekend of football across Oceania all eyes were on Fiji, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands where major titles were up for grabs.
In Fiji, Suva were crowned 2020 Vodafone Premier League (VPL) champions following a scoreless draw with Nadi in the final round of the competition on Sunday.
The capital city side claimed their fourth national league title due to their better goal difference after finishing level on points with Rewa who ended their season with a 5-3 win over Lautoka.
Suva went into the decisive 14th round of the season as clear championship favourites thanks to their two-point lead and a superior goal difference over their nearest rivals.
Knowing a draw would be enough, Babs Khan’s troops produced a number of goalscoring opportunities but were denied by some excellent goalkeeping from Nadi gloveman Vereti Dickson.
Following a nail-biting encounter where both sides finished with 10 men, Khan admitted his squad had to fight hard to secure the VPL trophy.
“As a coach, I will never want my team to go in and draw – but to win – and I congratulate Nadi for giving us a heart-stopping challenge,” Khan said.
“When I was appointed, Suva President Ritesh Pratap told me he wants to win the VPL title and I had some plans to fulfil his wishes despite some critics.
“It’s an honour to win the Vodafone Premier League and I’m really happy for Pratap for his first title since taking up the Suva presidency; the leadership applied pressure on me and they got the very best out of me and I got the very best out of them.”
The Filipe Baravilala-captained Suva side ended the competition with seven wins, six draws and one loss and picked up FJD$18,000 in prize money.
Rewa walked away with FJD$6000 for finishing second, while defending champions Ba finished third. Suva and Rewa also earned qualification for next year’s OFC Champions League.
In Vanuatu, Galaxy FC won the National Super League title after they beat the Malampa Revivors 5-0 in the final in Port Vila on Saturday.
Given they made the final, both sides had already earned a spot in the OFC Champions League for 2021 and Galaxy put on a show in front of 2000 fans at Korman Stadium.
LL Echo hammered Ruerue FC 6-0 to claim third place in the day’s earlier match.
Tupapa Maraerenga FC held Nikao Sokattak FC to a 2-2 draw during the weekend, meaning they earned the final point required to secure the 2020 Cook Islands Round Cup title.
It marked the fourth-consecutive men’s national league crown for Tupapa who wrapped up the title with two rounds to spare. The six-team competition is played across a triple round-robin format.
The victory means Tupapa will enter the Qualifying Stage of next year’s OFC Champions League.
In the national women’s league, 2020 champions Puaikura FC beat Avatiu FC 3-1, their 11th win of the season from 13 matches. Puaikura have a 10-point lead on the ladder ahead of Tupapa with two rounds to go.
Meanwhile, in the Solomon Islands, Laugu United went down 2-1 to Real Kakamora who came from behind to take all three points at Lawson Tama Stadium.
Ian Paia gave the Men in Black the lead with a deft header, but a penalty from skipper Paul Hiri and an injury-time goal from Adrian Mara turned the result in Kakamora’s favour.
Despite the defeat, Laugu remain in second place on the competition table, four points behind the Henderson Eels who will conclude Matchday 12 in the Telekom S-League when they face Isabel United on Wednesday night.
Elsewhere, third-placed Central Coast FC brushed aside the competition’s cellar dwellers Malaita Kingz 4-0, courtesy of goals from Philip Ropa, Alex Kaku, Charles Mani and Atana Fa’arodo.
Honiara City played out a scoreless draw with Marist, while Southern United notched up their third win in a row with a 4-1 win over Kossa FC.
In New Caledonia, Hienghène Sport recorded a narrow 2-1 victory over last-placed AS Kunie to maintain their two-point lead ahead of second-placed AS Magenta, who thrashed JS Baco 7-1 in the eighth round of the Mobil Super Ligue.
Tiga Sport, who are in third, and the fourth-placed Horizon Patho were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw, AS Mont-Dore and SC Ne Drehu also shared the points following their 1-1 stalemate, while AS Wetr edged past AS Lossi with a 3-2 win.
In New Zealand, Auckland Football Federation made it two from two during the second round of the ISPS Handa Women’s Premiership on Saturday.
Auckland beat Canterbury United Pride 4-1 and they’re setting the early pace in the competition. Capital Football topped Southern United 5-0 to remain undefeated while Central Football and WaiBOP United played out a 2-2 draw.
The eight-team ISPS Handa Men’s Premiership gets underway this weekend and the defending champions Auckland City FC will open their campaign against Eastern Suburbs AFC at Kiwitea Street on Sunday.
In Tahiti, Pirae are top of the Ligue 1 table following a 5-3 win over AS Venus, while Dragon are in second place, trailing only on goal difference, after they beat Arue 5-1. Pueu beat Central Sport 5-1 during the weekend and are sitting third.
In Samoa, Lupe Ole Soaga SC are leading the men’s national league with 11 wins from as many matches. Vaipuna SC are seven points back in second.