The National – Monday, February 14, 2011
By HENRY MORABANG
MRDC Hekari United shrugged off a late charge from the Eastern Star to win 2-1 in one of the season’s most physical but entertaining match in the Telikom National Soccer League.
Hekari’s backline of Andew Lepani, Malakai Tiwa, Alvin Singh and “Mr Reliable” Koriak Upaiga had to work overtime to stop continuous raids by Star’s frontline duo of Raymond Gunemba and Felix Bondaluk.
The Oceania champions stuck to their game plan to score early in the first half and defended the goal throughout the entire proceeding.
The goal by Hekari striker and captain Kema Jack was from a well-worked move by flanker Ian Yanum to give the reds a 1-0 lead inside the first 10 minutes.
Both Hekari and Stars matched each other in all departments.
United made use of their opportunities while Star had their opportunities but could not convert them into goals.
The battle in the midfield was a tactical armwrestle as Hekari’s club world cup captain David Muta took on Adrian Komu while former Hekari players Abraham Enoch, Michael Foster and Fabian Bagi pushed their former teamates all the way.
Despite the torrid exchanges interspersed with some free-flowing football, match officials were kept busy issuing five yellow cards to both teams as tempers flared.
Stars skipper Cyril Muta, Jeremy Yasasa, Timothy Joe and Joshua Niebo also kept Hekari strikers Kema Jack and Tuimasi Manuca under close watch denying them further opportunities.
In the second half, the match became a struggle as both sides searched vainly for cracks in each other’s defence.
Hekari maintained their starting XI while the Stars coach Eddie Omokirio had to call in stylish Carrol Kakate for Andrew Marampau.
Kakate had an instant impact and should have been brought on earlier.
Hekari also injected their own super-sub Samuel Kini who struck the winner past Stars goalkeeper Richard Lapan.
Hekari could have been forgiven for thinking they had the game sewn up at that stage but the Solomon Islands substitute kept the Oceania champions’ defenders busy.
Kakate’s presence and enthusiam in the field had Hekari’s defence guessing until the final whistle.
In 80th minute a Kakate volley found an unmarked Enoch get the Star back into the match and force a possible draw.
But Hekari with strong words from coach Jerry Allen kept their cool and defended the 2-1.
In other matches, Petro Souths drew with Besta PNG United 2-2 and Gigira Morobe FC beat Madang Fox 3-0.
The unofficial ladder: Hekari 18, Easter Star 17, Gigira Morobe 12, Petro Souths 11, Besta PNG 9 and Madang Fox 4.