The National, Monday 26th of May, 2014
By GABRIEL LAHOC
IT was the first National Soccer League grand final played outside Port Moresby, and it ended up being the worst in the semi-professional competition’s nine-year history.
The final between defending champions Hekari United and newcomers Lae FC was played in front of a packed Sir Ignatius Kilage Stadium in Lae but was called off with still a quarter of the match remaining.
Hekari were leading 3-0 but a controversial ruling by the match referee Job Minan to red card Lae’s captain Kohu Liem for dangerous play against opposing captain David Muta, drew the ire of spectators and those watching from outside the fence reacted by pelting Hekari goalkeeper Godfrey Baniau with stones.
The first half was a tight affair with both Lae’s enthusiasm countering Hekari’s class and experience.
Hekari got through a minute before halftime through Nigel Dabinyaba who blasted in the first goal of the final.
Hekari kept the pressure on as their big game experience showed up the home side.
Nicholas Muri added the second goal to silence the vocal Lae crowd while Raymond Gumenba scored the third goal to have the defending champs well on their way to a record ninth NSL title.
Liem’s send off came after he stomped on Muta who was attempting take possession of the ball. Muta went down during the challenge and while on the ground was fouled by Liem.
Muta stayed down in obvious pain and was unable to regain his feet for several minutes before being helped off the field.
Liem and several Lae players protested the red card but to no avail.
Despite strong police presence in the stadium, spectators, who watched the match through the wire fencing, threw stones at the Hekari side.
Baniau was forced to the sideline and complained to his Hekari manager Vonnie Kapi Nato and officials on several occasions.
The referee and linesmen made their way to their bench while the Lae and Hekari players huddled together in the middle of the field before the Hekari players also made their way slowly to their bench.
Police officers from the Lae Task Force team and mobile squad provided security for the referee and linesmen and bundled them into a police vehicle while Hekari followed suit several minutes later into a 25-seater bus and another 15-seater bus picked them up in the middle of the field.
Despite the tension from Lae supporters, club officials and police managed to keep the crowd under control.