By HENRY MORABANG and BUSTIN ANZU
PAPUA New Guinea’s Hekari United have created history, becoming the first PNG club to make the O-League final next month after thrashing Solomon Islands’ Marist FC 4-1 on Saturday.
PNG champions booked the first spot after topping Group B and will now meet New Zealand’s Waitekere United, who qualified after a 2-2 draw against fellow New Zealanders Auckland City, in Auckland yesterday was enough to top Group A.
Both teams will go into a home-and-away final on April 17and May 2 for the right to represent Oceania at the 2010 FIFA World Club Championships in Dubai, UAE.
PNG’s first two representative teams – Unitech (Lae), Sobou (Lae) and University (POM) – failed to advance into their second leg.
More than 7,000 soccer fans packed Lawson Tama football stadium in Honiara to witness the clash between the two sisters clubs, Hekari United and Marist FC.
But significantly, it was the imports who starred for PNG with goals coming from Solomon Islanders Alick “Razor” Maemae, who grabbed a double and his compatriot Henry Fa’arodo plus Fijian Pita Bolatoga.
With questions surrounding their loyalty prior to the match, all of Hekari’s Solomon Islanders played their hearts out for club with Maemae and Fa’arodo in aprticular taking their chances for the PNG team. It was none other then ‘master general’ Alick Mamae and striker the classyHenry Fa’arado Jr, who returned to their home turf, the famous Lawson Tama Stadium with brilliant footwork, elusive side steps, accurate curves and mighty kicks that saw Mamae collect a double and Fa’arado notch his own contribution while Fijian flanker Pita Bolatoga grab the fourth goal.
Elated Coach Tommy Mana said everyone played their part in the win and gave credit his players.
“We are happy to win this game and we will focus on our next game, which will be the O-League final. All players played their part and it’s a great team effort,” he said.
Senior player and mid fielder Andrew Lepani said they were happy to come this far making history by being the first team from Papua New Guinea to advance the O-League finals.
“We’re extremely with our performances coming this far. We have created history to see a team from Papua New Guinea taking part in this O-League competition and getting this far. It was our dream and now we are in it,” an elated Lepani said from Honiara yesterday.
He said the win was not only for Hekari but for Papua New Guinea soccer and would be a benchmark for other clubs and players to aspire to.
The qualification for the final comes as just reward for the PNG champion after they finished one point behind 2009 Koloale in Group B last season.
Meanwhile, Marist could only manage a consolation goal in the 78th minute through Commins Menapi and finished bottom of the group with one point from six matches.
Marist had all their internationals in Menapi, Joe Luwi, George Lui and former Hekari duos Abraham Iniga and Jacob Pekau but could not keep up with the pace as Hekari ran away with the match.
In the other Group B matches played on Saturday, Lautoka picked up three points with a 3-1 win over Tafea in Port Vila but the Fijians had to settle for second spot, just one point behind Hekari.
The first leg of the final will be played on Saturday April 17 with the return leg scheduled for Sunday May 2.