By GABRIEL LAHOC
THE Telikom National Soccer League (NSL) triple-header on Saturday in Lae was full of excitement and drama and witnessed by the biggest crowd so far at the Sir Ignatius Kilage Stadium.
Between the six franchise clubs – Niupetro Fox FC, Tukoko University Lae FC, Hekari United FC, Besta PNG U-20 FC, Gigira Laitepo Morobe FC and CMSS Tigers FC – the three NSL matches had everything for the soccer fan’s palate, it drew the biggest win and the biggest loss and the best comeback resulting in a draw.
University Lae FC, aiming to remain as competition leaders, shut out a late fightback in the first match by their northern neighbours Niupetro Fox to win 5-3.
They fielded four unknown players outside the NSL circle, who were recruited from three different associations in Morobe province, after their outstanding performances with Team Morobe at the PNG Games.
Morobe coach Wopai Ziziga said defenders Jonah Kera and Timas Yawaka were recruited from Kaiapit in Markham district, while flankers Tanik Mathew and Darius Edwin were from Lahi and Wau, who boosted the team’s attack and defence.
In the second match, Hekari United FC riding on their massive O-League victory last week showed everyone they were still the boss as they went on a scoring spree over the “NSL babies,” Besta PNG U-20, scoring the highest margin in the competition with six of their players managing a total of 10 unanswered goals.
Pita Bolatoga opened the scoresheet in the 19th minute, followed by Joachim Waroi, Alick Magmae, Tonga Esira and Tuimasi Manuca in the first half, and were just as ruthless in the second half.
In the second half Esira grabbed two more goals, Pita scored his second, while Erick Komeng bagged a brace.
The Besta youths were given credit for standing up to the nation’s top team, with United manageress Vonnie Kapi Natto commending their bravery against great odds.
“This (loss) can only help them.It will help these young players’ commitment and discipline will see them improve greatly in the future,” she said. The rescheduled main match of the day, which was the decider for the second spot on the table, was complemented with cooler weather, with Gigira and CMSS Tigers putting on a display described by many as the best come back match in this NSL second round with both teams concluding the match 2-2.
The patriotic Morobe crowds were boisterous shouting their hearts out calling for a goal, after Tiger’s Bruce Kusune’s goal in the first half, and their prayers were answered by young Nigel Dabinyaba whose equaliser saw his parents celebrating with the spectators.
The deadlock following that goal, saw both teams trying in vain to cross into enemy territory, and with five minutes left on the clock Manaseh Adi blasted home Morobe’s second goal from outside the box, to a rousing response from the crowd.
However with a never say die attitude, Tigers took a quick restart and with Morobe’s guard let down following Manaseh’s goal, executed a look-a-like attack which saw Mathew Mende scoring the equaliser from outside the Morobe 20-meter mark.
Tigers officials for reasons known to themselves declined to comment on the draw, with Morobe coach Max Foster expressing that both goals by Tigers were silly mistakes by his boys leading to the breaches.
Young Nigel who is currently in Grade 10 at Bugandi Secondary School played the whole 90 minutes and was praised by his coach for his performance.
Meanwhile Hekari Captain Andrew Lepani’s younger brother Nathaniel Lepani has been recruited by Gigira Laitepo, and is expected to wear the Morobe gold colors this coming Saturday in the all Morobean affair against Tukoko University Lae FC, after all his documents are finalised by the NSL.