As Team Wellington and Suva F.C lined up before their opening OCL 2016 game, you could just about make out the Investec logo that had been painted onto each half of the pitch for last weekends Super Rugby clash. The thousands that came weren’t present yesterday, which is a shame because they missed some cracking football.
TeeDubs lined up in a 3 – 4 – 3, pushing their full backs on into midfield while Suva F.C went with a 4 – 4 – 1 – 1. Both sides made their debut in the competition last season, with TeeDubs making the final and Suva finishing seventh.
But it was Suva who had the first chance of the game, Setareki Hughes putting on the afterburners to evade Bill Robertson and fire a shot that Scott Basalaj tipped onto the post. The ball dropped inches short of the goal line and was hacked away by Fergus Neil.
After that it was mostly one way traffic with TeeDubs attempting to confound the committed Suva defence either through neat play involving Luis Corrales (Luis, we know you’re swearing in Spanish when you miscontrol the ball) and Ben Harris, or via set pieces.
It wasn’t easy though. The Suva keeper made some excellent stops in one on one situations and wasn’t afraid to come flying out to retrieve the ball. He had a cannon of a kick on him, on more than one occasion sending goal kicks straight to his opposite number.
Half Time: Team Wellington 0 – 0 Suva F.C
More of the same in the second half, with the NZ side dominant but unable to make a breakthrough.Suva weren’t without talent either. Madhwan Gounder wasn’t afraid to put his foot in to tackle, and delivered some beautiful spread passes throughout the game. TeeDubs, to their credit, ensure there was little space for them to operate in.
And while TeeDubs found it tricky to break down Suva, they had their chances. Perhaps the month between the NZFC final and this game accounted for the rustiness. Credit, well deserved credit, went to the Fijian defence who put themselves firmly between ball and goal on repeated occasions. For fans of a scrambled, effective defence, this was a game for the purists.
The deadlock was eventually broken in the 74th minute. Steven Gulley delivered a low cross from the left, Waisake Navunigasau’s attempt at a clearance on the spin merely flicked the ball up to a diving Ben Harris. One nil to Team Wellington.
A minute or two later Bill Robertson recieved a yellow card, ostensibly for talking back to the referee. He’d been repeatedly pinged in the first half, coming off worse in the dark wrangle between striker and defender.
A second goal was on its way though. Leo Villa’s cross from deep sailed towards the backpost. Suva keeper Ben Mateinaqara came off his line, but found himself stranded. Ben Harris was there again, placing a delicate header in from the tightest of angles.
There was still time for that goals provider, Leo Villa, to rattle to bar with an audacious attempt to chip the keeper and Suva to force Basalaj into a good save low down at his near post.
Full Time: Team Wellington 2 – 0 Suva F.C
It’s clear that Suva are no pushover, and Hekari United and A.S Lossi will have watched this game and know they’re in for a good contest in their upcoming games. For Team Wellington, they have a tougher game than this against Hekari United next Saturday which could very well decide who wins the group.
Categories: OFC Champions League
John Palethorpe lives in South Auckland which is very far away from Fratton Park and Champion Hill. Having been told there was no football in New Zealand, he was delighted to find that there is.