A 10-man Hekari United on Saturday kept its O- League chances alive with a 2-0 defeat of Amicale at the Port Moresby’s Lloyd Robson Oval over the weekend.
With two more games remaining before the close of the 2011/2012 O-League season both teams were equally determined to edge closer to Pool B leaders, Auckland City to have any hope of challenging them for the honours.
Hekari took only 11 minutes to stamp their intention through striker Kema Jack. The striker stirred the huge home crowd into frenzy when he nailed a screamer from 18 yards out following a penalty.
Kema took a well taken shot that stunned Amicale goal keeper, Chikau Mansale with the ball just edging the corner post by inches, giving no hope for the diving goalie.
Fearing a loss would mark an early break from the O-League, Amicale lifted its own game but the home team held on with impressive short passes that troubled the visitors time and again.
Captain David Muta, Wira Wama, Koriak Upaiga, Samuel Kini and Andrew Lepani were kept busy by the visitors’ front men led by Derek Malas and Fenedy Masauvakulo.
Hekari were reduced to 10 men after just a minute into the second half when inspirational Fijian Taniela Waqa was sent off by the New Zealand referee, Chris Kerr for a second yellow card.
Taking advantage of the Hekari shortfall, Amicale revamped their forward line and used the superior submission. Hekari repelled the Vanuatu side and mounted their own counter attacks that kept the crowd at the edge of their seats.
Samuel Kini who was a very busy man at the centre of Hekari’s attack broke the hearts of the visitors when he slipped a perfect pass to Jack who had to work around two defenders before beating sale to seal the result.
Hekari’s three points from win leapfrogged the Vanuatu team to clear second on seven points, after both teams were tied on four points behind group leader Auckland City on six just before the game.
But yesterday the New Zealanders back to back title hopes turned closer to fruition when they belted Koloale 7-3 at home ground in Honiara to move five points clear of Hekari’s chase.
Amicale’s defeat came as a bitter blow to their title ambitions and they now join Koloale as the two teams with no mathematical chance of threatening Auckland for the title race.
Amicale’s coach Luke Eroi is already looking beyond 2012. “We quit after today’s result and from now on we will start concentrating on the next O- League,” Eroi said.
Hekari’s team manageress, Vonnie Kapi Natto is already doing the same with her sights on the next O-League on March 3rd when they host Auckand City. Mrs. Natto said the win came about from good team work and patience. She also gave special praise to her striker Jack who is finding form at the crucial end of ht competition.