The National, Monday April 20th, 2015
HEKARI United bowed out of the Oceania Champions League semi-finals race despite winning its last match against AS Tefana 3-2 in their last Group matches on Friday at the ANZ Stadium in Suva, Fiji.
The Papua New Guinea champions had their fingers crossed and hoping for Group A’s Lupe Ole Soaga to beat Gaitcha of New Caledonia the following day but the Noumea-based team thrashed the Samoan champions 8-1 to extinguish any hope for the Reds.
Hekari will take some positives from their last group match.
After being reduced to nine-men mid-way through the clash, they regrouped to get past the Tahitians.
Long-serving Fijian import, Pita Bolaitoga was red-carded for tripping Lorenzo Tehau in the box and Solomon Islander Tutizama Tanito was given a straight red for cynical play (kicking the ball away after being penalised).
Hekari was the first to get on the scoreboard in the 13th minute as midfielder Dennis Ifunaoa tapped in a cross from the left wing.
Bolaitoga fouled Tehau from behind, giving Tefana a spot kick at the 35th minute.
Defender Angfelo Tchen had no problem as he sent Benamino Mateinaqara the wrong way for an equaliser before Haddis Aengari slotted the ball from a corner just before halftime to lead 2-1.
After the break, Hekari continued the pressure but keeper Mateinaqara gave possession in his box to Tefana.
Temarii Tinorua levelled the scores 2-2 with an easy shot at goal after a mix-up by Hekari defenders before Hekari rising star Tommy Semmy put his name on the scoresheet after guiding a Tanito cross into the net. The Solomon Islands winger was then marched off in the 71st minute for his indiscretion and Hekari were reduced to nine.
Hekari coach Jerry Allen said the red cards put his side under a lot of pressure but he was happy with the way they held on to win the match.
“The men did well and kept fighting until the final whistle,” Allen said.
“Some might have thought it would be impossible for us with the red cards, but the men played until the final whistle.
Results: Group A – Sat, Apr 18 Gaitcha 8 Lupe Ole Soaga 1, Ba 2 Pirae 0; Group B – Suva 3 Western United 1, Auckland City 3 Amicale 0; Group C – Fri, Apr 17 Hekari 3 Tefana 2, Wellington 3 Tafea 2. Fixtures: Semi-finals Tues, Apr 21 – Gaitcha vs Auckland, Ba vs Wellington.