The National – Monday, February 28, 2011
By HENRY MORABANG
O-LEAGUE champions MRDC Hekari United have vowed to come back stronger next season after bombing out of contention with a 2-1 loss to Solomon Islands’ Koloale at Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara on Saturday.
Koloale flanker Mostyn Beui scored twice – once in each half – to put coach Peter Eke’s side 2-0 up before Hekari threatened to mount a comeback when Tuimasi Manuca found the net with just over 10 minutes remaining.
But Hekari could not repeat their last-gasp heroics of the previous round – when they scored twice in the dying stagesthe game to earn a 3-3 draw with Vanuatu’s Amicale – and will now have to wait until next season for a shot at Oceania football’s top prize and ultimately a return to the FIFA Club World Cup action.
Amicale, who beat Fiji’s Lautoka 5-1 in Port Vila on Saturday, are now almost certain to go on and become only the second Vanuatu team to qualify for the final of an OFC club-based competition.
They are following in the footsteps of Tafea, who stunned New Zealand’s Napier City Rovers 4-2 in the semi-final of the 2001 OFC club championship in Port Moresby before eventually falling to Australia’s Wollongong Wolves 1-0 in the final.
They got off to the perfect start in their quest to emulate Tafea when local hero Fenedy Masauvakalo latched onto a Jack Wetney pass to put the home side ahead in the 7th minute sending the 7,000-plus strong home crowd, who had crammed into PVL Stadium, into a frenzy.
The Fijians were keen on playing a physical game and rattled the home side by keeping up the pressure but a red card to Young Paul in the 24th minute for a wreckless challenge on Valerio Nawatu had the Fijians at a numerical disadvantage and this proved a major drawback with Amicale adding a further three goals before the break.
Former Hekari midfielder Alick Maemae and Jack Wetney got their names on the score sheet before Masauvakalo notched his second in injury time.
Lautoka provided more resistance in an even second spell and found the net themselves when Gibson Daudau handled in the box, allowing Alvin Avinesh to smash home from the penalty spot. But they would also end the match a man short after Krishna Samy received his marching orders with five minutes remaining.
Masauvakalo then stepped up in the final moments to complete his hat-trick and round off a miserable day for the Fijians, whose O-League campaign had looked so promising in the early stages but is now in danger of ending in ignominious fashion after 6-1 and 5-1 losses in their last two matches.
Lautoka can still catch the leaders on points if they win their last match and Amicale lose but the Port Vila-based side’s vastly superior goal difference would still carry them through.
The afternoon was far more special for three-goal hero Masauvakalo, who had added motivation to do well after the death of his brother, former Amicale captain Ken Masauvakalo.
“I would like to dedicate the three goals to my late brother Ken and the fans that came out in huge numbers today to get behind us,” he says.
“I know Ken is with me every time I play and that is why the number 11 shirt is important to me – it means me and him.”
Lautoka coach Gurjit Singh felt his players had put in plenty of effort but admitted they were beaten by a better team.
“We had to leave some of our best players behind and that makes it hard for me to choose who will play,” he said.
“But today the boys played their hearts out and we can only congratulate Amicale for the great football they displayed. I wish them all the best in their remaining match against Koloale.”