The National- Monday, January 17, 2011
SATURDAY’S scoreless draw between Hekari United and Lautoka FC at Churchill Park in Luatoka, Fiji, has thrown the door wide open in the Group A of the 2011 O-League challenge.
The Fijian champions have taken a slim lead in the group with two wins and a draw from three matches and are undefeated in their pool.
The clash with defending O-League champions was an eagerly anticipated encounter and a bumper crowd turned up to watch the home side take on Oceania’s recent FIFA Club World Cup representatives.
Interestingly, Hekari’s Fijian starters Osea Vakatalesau, Simione Tamanisau, Pita Bolaitoga, Malakai Tiwa and Alvin Singh and Tuimasi Manuca, off the bench, ensured fans were divided in their support.
Both sides struggled to finish off their chances and were forced to settle for a point each after the stalemate.
Lautoka coach Gurjit Singh, inspite of the scoreless result, was pleased to see his charges establish themselves at the top of the table.
“I’m happy with the result, given the short time we had together before the match,” he said.
“It is important now to work on our weaknesses as we are undefeated and in the running for a place in the final.
“Our focus is now on our next opponents who will be Koloale,” Gurjit said.
Lautoka looked flat without key players Marika Madigi, Valerio Nawatu, Jone Vono Jr, Samuela Kautoka and Ilaitia Tuilau who were dropped last week.
The hosts had to survive an early onslaught from the Papua New Guineans but managed to ride it out before settling into the game.
Both teams then displayed some entertaining football throughout but a combination of solid defence and inaccuracy in front of goal kept the scoreboard void.
Hekari’s Vakatalesau and Lautoka’s Sanni Issa had several opportunities but failed to capitalise on any.
Lautoka had their best chance to break the deadlock in the 62nd minute when Issa got past goalkeeper Tamanisau with the net at his mercy but inexplicably missed.
Hekari’s stand-in coach Treva Ire was reasonably pleased with the performance but said the team had to improve if they are to successfully defend their title.
“We stuck to our game plan but could not find the target,” he said.
“But credit to Lautoka because they came out strong as well.”
“Both sides played their hearts out and in the end a draw was a fair result.
“There is still a lot of room for improvement and we must now go back home and prepare for the next game.”
Lautoka are in O-League action again on Feb 5 when they play Koloale at Churchill Park while Hekari travel to Vanuatu to take on first round conquerors Amicale on the same day.