The 2010 champions Hekari United have struggled on the regional stage in recent years but well and truly announced their return with a clinical performance against the New Caledonia debutants.
It took very little time for the Papua New Guinea to find the weak link in their opponents defence as Solomon Islander Joses Nawo went low and hard past Michel Hne in the second minute to open the scoring.
Seven minutes later and young striker Tommy Semmy was on the board for his third ever goal in this competition.
Lossi pulled one back in the 30th minute to keep themselves within reach, as Ishmael Pole flailed at an aerial effort allowing Lössi captain Dick Kauma to head home at the back post.
It was one of few highlights for the side that had been hoping to make a big impact on the tournament as Hekari stepped up the pace. Wira Wama got on the end of a Semmy cross putting his volley away in stunning fashion ahead of the break.
Goals to Gagame Feni and Emmanuel Simon in the second half were more than enough to seal the win and send Hekari into their next match against Suva feeling relatively comfortable with their performance.
Normally incredibly reserved there was a hint of a smile on the face of Hekari United coach Jerry Sam following a great performance from his charges across the board.
“I was very happy with my boys. We came here knowing that this first game was very important and it’s really going to help us for the next game,” he says.
“The plan, as we don’t know them, in the first five-ten minutes we just play high pressure and try and force a mistake and they did that well.
They kept the ball, moved the ball around well and it was a good start. It’s not over however it was a good start for us.”
Conceding two early goals is what Stephane Drahusak says really cost his side as not only did it put them behind on the scoreboard, but it built a mental barrier they couldn’t overcome.
“The most difficult thing is the manner in which we lost this game. We didn’t start well at all and were 2-0 down within the first ten minutes and those were from two errors from us.
“There was still 80 minutes for us to reduce that scoreline but it proved too difficult. For some it’s a wake-up call in regards to the level that is required at this high level.”
In the earlier match Suva FA’s strong start to the competition would have taken Team Wellington a little by surprise.
Goalkeeper Benaminio Mateinaqara had a blinder between the posts making some incredible saves to deny the likes of Ben Harris and Luis Corrales. While at the other end of the pitch Setareki Hughes, Nickel Chand and Rusiate Matarerega caused problems for Scott Basalaj.
It took Wellington a good 74 minutes to finally break down the Suva defence after a sustained period of dominance as Steven Gulley cut the ball back for Harris to finish.
A short time later Harris secured his brace when he met a Leonardo Villa cross, looping his header over Mateinaqara to give his side a 2-0 lead and the three valuable points.
Coach Matt Calcott says it was a good second period from his side.
“At half-time we were pretty direct in what we needed to do to take that step up. We had lots of possession in the first half but I don’t think we really hurt them.
“We went up in our tempo and our passing in the second half and it was good to see.”
While the opening loss was an obvious disappointment for Gurjit Singh, he was pleased by the performance from his side especially in the first half.
“I thought it was a good performance in the first half. If you look at the team we’re not as strong as last year, last year we were quite well prepared.
“But overall a good game. We played well the first half but collapsed a bit in the last 20 minutes of the second half.”
Group B action resumes on Tuesday 12 April when Hekari United take on Suva at 1pm before AS Lossi take on 2015 runners-up Team Wellington at 3.30pm.
The 2016 OFC Champions League continues tomorrow with the first Group A encounters of the competition. Auckland City FC will take on Solomon Warriors at 1pm followed by debutants Lae City Dwellers against Amicale.
Story courtesy of OFC. For more on the OFC Champions League visit www.oceaniafootball.com