By ISAAC LIRI
THE Laiwaden Oval in Madang will host the National Soccer League semifinals over the weekend with defending champions Lae City taking on Besta United in the opener while home side Madang face off with PS United in the other semi.
NSL competition manager Simon Koima said the semis were moved to Madang because of the state of the pitch at the originally slated semifinal Papua New Guinea Football Academy had been adversely affected by rain.
“After an analysis of the wet weather conditions in Lae, the original venue of the semifinals, the NSL board agreed to move the games to Madang,” Koima said.
“The weather in Lae is just not suitable to host the games so we had no choice but to have the semis in Madang.
“There was talk to have the games in Port Moresby but after considering the travel costs, Madang was the cheaper and practical alternative.”
This will be Madang’s second time to host NSL finals fixtures.
The provincial capital last hosted finals in the 2015-2016 season which saw the home side qualify for the final against Hekari United.
“I believe the fans in Madang will be happy to have the finals in their town,” Koima said.
“Madang is a soccer loving province and I think everyone there will appreciate it.”
The first semifinal kicks off at 12.30pm with reigning champs Lae City expected to be too good for an enthusiastic Besta United under-20 side.
Both Morobe-based sides will have to contend with stifling heat and humidity in the midday fixture.
The Dwellers, who have gone through the regular season unbeaten, have their full strength squad available and will be led by striker Raymond Gunemba. The PNG representative bagged a double against in Lae’s 4-1 win over PS United in last week’s NSL game in Port Moresby.
Besta coach Harrison Kamake has a knack for getting his charges up for big games and Saturday will be no different for the PNGFA U20s who have nothing to lose and to gain from the experience.
The two matches between the sides this season have been competitive with coach Peter Gunemba’s Dwellers coming out the victor both times scoring 2-0 and 3-1 wins. The second match will see Madang go neck-to-neck with PS United at 3.00pm. In the second semifinal, home side Madang will be hoping to repeat their 2016 heroics when they made the final.
They will have home court advantage but more importantly have a side that has had the extra week off to unlike PS United who were ground down by the Dwellers in Port Moresby last Saturday.
For the PS United, their season did not start out with lofty aims but a solid squad led by internationals Donovan Murray, Philip Steven and Richard Alois have the talent to steer the side to their first grand final.
Semifinal fixtures: Sat, July 29 – 1230 Lae City Dwellers v Besta United, 1500 Madang v PS United.
By ISAAC LIRI