After living up to fans expectations by securing a first-ever victory in the OFC Champions League, Vanuatu club champions Nalkutan FC are keen for a repeat performance against Qualifier winners Tupapa Maraerenga.
But fans will have to wait to see the home side in action as big winners on day one, Lae City Dwellers, take on Ba FC of Fiji in Group A’s first Match Day 2 encounter.
Peter Gunemba’s Dwellers side felt they found their stride in their opening match against the Cook Islands club champions as they netted seven goals. However the two they let in will be of concern to the coach who will look to bolster his defence against what will be a determined Ba.
“I was thinking about and I said to the team, ‘Ba really want to go through to the quarter finals so it’s not going to be an easy game for us’,” Gunemba said.
“They’re a very good team and they lost their first game so they will be coming very hungry at us on Tuesday. We need to be prepared.”
Gunemba is right about Ba being hungry for a victory.
The side want to restore some pride after being outshone by the home side Nalkutan putting even a share of the points out of their grasp.
“You know, the result from the first match day was disappointing,” Ba’s Ronil Kumar said.
“We had some opportunities in the first half that we should have taken and we were punished by Lae. We’ve looked at where we made our mistakes and worked on them in training over the past two days so I hope that will show on the field.”
Making the step from Qualifier football to Group Stage for the first time in 17 years was a steep learning curve for Tupapa Maraerenga, who now face another uphill challenge against Nalkutan.
Playing with a stacked defence in an effort to contain the speed and agility of Lae’s strike force was the obvious game plan for Tupapa but it was one they struggled with. The approach left the players unsure of their roles at times and when they opened up a bit in the second half especially, they were able to better retain possession and create some opportunities for themselves.
However Alex Napa knows that taking on Nalkutan is going to require an even greater effort from his team.
“I think Nalkutan will be the top team of the competition so we will take a totally different approach,” Napa said.
“We’ll try, and I say that with the best intentions, we’ll try and contain their style of play. We know it’s going to be difficult but I think we’re going to open up our players to the opportunity to expand themselves, come to the stage and take it from there.”
After a rip-roaring start to the competition, Moise Poida believes his side is ready to continue along in the same vein.
“Everybody looked good, were well focused and the physical fitness was good,” Poida said.
“We take the matches one by one and we’re very serious about the way we play.”
Group A resumes for Match Day 2 of the OFC Champions League on Tuesday 13 February with Lae City Dwellers taking on Ba at 2pm followed by Tupapa Maraerenga against Nalkutan at 5pm.
Lae City Dwellers [PNG] vs. Ba FC [FIJ] #OFCCL #LAEBA
Port Vila, Vanuatu
Tuesday 13 February
Kick-off: 14h00 local
(13h00 PNG / 15h00 FIJ / 17h00 COK 12/02 )
Vital Statistics: Ba had just six shots at goal in their opening match, and just one of those was on-target.
The Players: Josaia Ratu had an impressive 90 minutes with Nalkutan putting some powerful shots on target which put his agility to the test. He took a knock against Nalkutan which may see him sit out the side’s second game, but among the replacements is former Fiji U-20 goalkeeper Misiwani Nairube who should provide good cover if required.
Coach Quote: “We picked up a few injuries and knocks in the first match and we’ll wait until match day to do the final assessment. All going well, we shouldn’t have many, if any, changes to our starting eleven.”
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, 17. Narendra RAO, 18. Laisenia NAIOKO, 19. Shivneel SINGH, 20. Josaia RATU (GK), 21. Nathan BROWN, 22. Atunaisa NAUCUKIDI (GK), 23. Sanaila WAQANICAKAU
Suspended: 16. Malakai TIWA
Coach: Ronil KUMAR [FIJ]