The OFC Champions League 2018 has its first quarter finalists after tournament debutants Nalkutan and Lae City Dwellers secured their spots with 4-0 and 1-0 wins over opponents Tupapa Maraerenga and Ba respectively this evening.
The victories are the second in two matches for both sides and mean they cannot be denied a top two finish in Group A when the final matches are played on Friday, meaning a first exit from the group stage of this competition for both sides.
Lae City Dwellers opened the day’s action at Korman Stadium in Port Vila expecting a tough match against a hungry Ba FC, and that’s what they got.
“I’m proud of the boys,” Lae City Dwellers coach Peter Gunemba said.
“When we saw Ba play on Saturday we were thinking ‘can we go through?’, but we got our confidence and thought we could win and we did.
“Ba is a very good side, very experienced in the Champions League but we also thought we could surprise them.”
The Fijians were tight in defence and despite what seemed like unstoppable shots on goal, goalkeeper Josaia Ratu kept a quick and powerful Lae strike force at bay for over an hour.
Raymond Gunemba is a well-known threat, but Ba were also dealing with speedster Obert Bika out one side and Tutizama Tanito on the other which kept the backline and keeper on their toes with efforts coming from all directions.
Ba had a couple of their own chances with 17-year-old Kishan Sami more than holding his own against some much more experienced opponents, but like Lae, the Fijians were unable to turn chances into goals in the first half.
After requiring treatment twice during the match and limping to the changing room at half-time, it was assumed that Ratu would be swapped out for the second half. However he came out and played another decent 15 minutes of football before he could continue no more.
That meant former Fiji U-20 international Misiwani Nairube had an opportunity to enter the game, and it was unfortunate that only three minutes after his entrance Lae City Dwellers found themselves in the lead.
A tidy strike from Solomon Islander Tutizamo Tanito off the set-up from Raymond Gunemba gave his side a lead they’d hold onto for the remainder of the match.
With his side out of the running for a place in the quarter finals, Ba coach Ronil Kumar was somewhat lost for words at the full-time whistle.
“Actually I can’t say much about it. We learned a lot out of it. We started the game really well but the thing was, you have to score if you want to win. We didn’t score, they win. They score, they win.”
One positive from the performance was that of Josaia Ratu, who impressed despite carrying an injury.
“He was the number one goalkeeper for us and when he was on the field, he did his best.”