By HENRY MORABANG
A 10-man CMSS Tigers put on a gallant performance in the second half to force a 1-1 draw against Hekari United in the Telikom Cup National Soccer League competition in Port Moresby on Saturday.
Billed as a probable grand final preview for April, many spectators got their money’s worth for football entertainment despite some questionable calls by match officials.
Both teams wasted no time in testing each others’ goalmouth.
Tigers Ian Yanum and Gary Moka came close to finding the target while Hekari United’s Joachim Waroi bombed a sitter in the opening 15 minutes.
Tigers used a mix of long and overhead passing to get around the taller Hekari defenders for most of the match.
In one such move, Tigers fowards of Moka, Yanum and the dangerous Raymond Gunemba caught the Hekari defence on the backfoot for Gunemba to unleash at point-blank to register the first goal of the match to lead 1-0.
Hekari with their never-say-die attitude restarted the game strongly with more coordination in their midfield by skipper David Muta and Samuel Kini which saw them start to find openings in the Tigers’ defensive patterns.
Kini finally found a gap in the defence to easily kick the ball over Anton Pipi’s head for the equaliser.
With that goal, the game started to turn physical as both sets of players began to throw themselves into the fray with more aggressive challenges on the ball and tackling.
However the referee and his two linesmen did not pick up several fouls which left a lot to be desired on their performance and took away from an otherwise great match. Missed calls almost spoils quality match
Referee redcarded Moka when he challenged Hekari goalkeeper Gure Gabina while he did no do likewise for Kema Jack who kicked Tigers Anton Pipi while he dived to save the ball.
When Moka was sent for early shower just three minutes before half time, CMSS Tigers seem to be lagging in defence, however the clock saved them to see them ending with 1-1 draw at half time.
In the second half, the game was tight with both teams could not penetrate easily as expected.
Tigers should be commended for playing with one man short, poured out everything they had to hold off a strong fight back from Hekari to force a draw.
In other matches played in Port Moresby, University Inter had to pay the price for their lackluster performance to play catch-up football against Tukoko University of Lae in the opening match.
Leading 2-1 at half time, University Lae put the game beyond reach when Lae-based Solomon Islander Clifford Wate scored against his former teammates to extend the lead 3-1. University reduced the lead through super-sub Lawrence Moses who connected a good cross from Niel Hans, however, time ran against them.
In the main match, Gigira Laitepo Morobe FC franchise owner Libe Parandali was the happy man at Lloyd Robson Oval when his team beat luckless Eastern Star 5-1.
Goal each to left flanker Sammy Aiyok, right flanker Armstrong Peka and striker Hans Mambare in the opening half was enough to secure the win.
However, coach Max Foster and his manager Stanley Khanna think otherwise when Africa-Sepik connection of striker Pascal Wojen got his name into the scoresheet after the two first goals to cushion the lead 4-0 before the baby of the team Nigel Babinoa seal the match 5-0.
Eastern Star scored through Danny Barnabas from a good corner kick to make them look respectable 5-1 in the dying minutes.
In Madang, Besta PNG put on a much-improved performance to hold Madang Niupetro Fox to a 1-1 draw at Laiwaden Oval.