By HENRY MORABANG
PAPUA New Guinea’s Hekari United surprised the Oceania football fraternity as they stunned two-time champions, Waitakere United 3-0 in the first leg final of the 2010 O-League at Lloyd Robson Oval in Port Moresby on Saturday.
The victory has set up a tantalisingreturn leg at Fred Taylor Park in Auckland, New Zealand, on May 2.
OFC top brass, including its secretary general Nicholas Tai, and FIFA development officer Glen Turner and other government dignatories such as MRDC managing director Augustine Mano, NBC managing director Joseph Ealadona and others were impressed with the performance by the reigning National Soccer League premiers.
Local hero Kema Jack scored a double in Hekari’s decisive victory.
The Kaparoko man from Hula in the Central province scored in each half while Solomon Island import Alick Maemae added a third goal to propel Hekari a step closer to the FIFA Club World Cup in Dubai, UAE, later this year.
Jack lived up to expectations by scoring two goals in front of his home crowd which made him an instant hero after the O-League match.
When asked how he felt after scoring two goals in the O-League final, he replied with a smile, saying: “Oh, it’s a good feeling when you are playing in front of your people. It is a great feeling.”
Kema also thanked all his teammates for for playing their hearts out for the PNG club champions.
As PNG’s first representative in an O-League final, Hekari stepped up against the New Zealand champions with a classy display in front of an estimated 15,000 partisan crowd while Waitakere struggled in hot and humid conditions.
While the result may come as a surprise to some, Hekari coach Jerry Allen said his side were quietly confident all along.
“We were looking forward to this game because we knew we had done everything we could to prepare,” Allen said. “I’m fortunate to have some very experienced players in my team and they showed their quality today. We are confident now heading into the second leg but of course the colder weather will be tough.”
Meanwhile Waitakere player-coach Neil Emblen refused to blame his side’s performance on the stifling conditions.
“The weather is the same, the pitch is the same for both teams so we can’t make any excuses.
“Hekari just scored three goals today and we didn’t.
“We wanted to come back with a closer score but Hekari played very well today. So we’ll just have to be at our best in two weeks time when they come to New Zealand.”
Waitakere asserted the early pressure and almost went ahead in the 2nd minute when Emblen’s shot from just outside the box hit the crossbar.
Hekari’s Maemae also hit the bar in the 19th minute before Roy Krishna went close a minute later down the other end of the field striking the ball into the side netting.
In the 27th minute, Waitakere goalkeeper Danny Robinson came out to the edge of his area to collect a deep ball over the tap but failed to take it cleanly leaving Papua New Guinea international Jack to run through and score unopposed, setting off frenzied celebrations from the home fans.
Waitakere came close to equalising just before half-time when Krishna went on another surging run down the left flank and hit a low cross to Solomon Islands speedster Benjamin Totori whose shot hit the post.
If Totori wasn’t quite on song, his compatriot Maemae certainly was with a quality strike from 20 meters out in the 49th minute to double Hekari’s lead.
The Solomon Islands international was again in the thick of the action in the 73rd minute, this time weaving into the box down the left flank and snapping a low cross for Jack to slot the ball home from the penalty spot.
Both teams now head into the second leg at Watakere’s Fred Taylor Park on Sunday May 2 with Oceania’s US$500,000 play-off spot at the FIFA Club World Cup on the line.