OCL: Lae City Dwellers v Solomon Warriors
Nothing to play for. Neither team could qualify for the knockout stages as Group A drew to a close. Solomon Warriors had something though, their hard earned draw with Amicale had been scrubbed off and turned into a 3 – 0 win for the team from Vanuatu. Looks like it’s not just New Zealand who have problems with eligibility.
The downpour in the afternoon, a typically Auckland run-for-your life rainstorm, left the pitch sodden. As the start of the game was delayed for a half hour, there was talk of calling the game off in favour of an unplayed draw. Neither team was having that though, their final group game in the Champions League was a matter of pride.
I was late, choosing to grab some lunch before heading to the ground after my experiences at the last game. On arrival, it was clear some things had changed. The hard-working food van man had been joined by not one, not two, but three assistants. Better still, the bar was open. Lovely.
It was 2 – 1 when I took my seat. A mishit Raymond Gunemba cross crept in, under or through the Solomon Warriors keeper early doors. A minute or so later the Warriors hit back, Nigel Dabinyaba losing possession with a heavy touch in midfield, allowing Brian Kaltack to thump a ball straight through the hands of hypercoloured Ronald Warisan.
Lae took the lead through an own goal, and it wouldn’t be the last of the day. Dabinyaba, through on goal down the left, attempted a shot and produced a square ball which backpedalling Fred Faraki could only lift into his own net.
Another own goal came just before half time. The powerful Kensi Tangis was picked out, in between the two central defenders, by a long searching pass from the right back position. As he shaped to shoot Valentine Nelson attempted to scoop the ball off his toes but only managed to place a beautiful shot into the top right hand corner of the goal, to the dismay of his keeper.
Half Time: Lae City Dwellers 2 – 2 Solomon Warriors
There were plenty of goals left in this one. The first could have come out of a John Beck era Cambridge United playbook, Lae completely failing to deal with a long arrowed ball which bounced, allowing Donga to first speed past a retreating defender and then produce a delicate chip over the too slowly advancing keeper before tapping it over the line.
Route one can be beautiful. No, really.
Fewer than ten minutes passed before an equaliser – again a long raking diagonal pass picked out Gunemba who held his nerve, and a defender off, to place the ball into the far corner. All square again.
Except, no, because this game was all out kinetic attack. And also because the referee decided a shot from Michael Foster pinged up off Haddis Aengari’s thigh and sort of looked like it sort of hit his shoulder and his arm – we weren’t sure, it didn’t look intentional. Penalty anyway, dispatched by Foster. Lae with the lead, and potentially their first win in the OCL.
It was 4 – 3, in case you’ve lost count.
No, sorry. It’s 4 – 4. Immediately Solomon Warriors peg the score back. Molea Tigi cuts outside a defender and sends a ball lasering into the far corner – remarkably similar to one Darren White would score later for Auckland City.
The final score was 5 -4, with Donga benefiting from some pinball inside the box to tuck a shot in at the near post.
The joy of the victory for the Warriors was tempered by the disappointment of Lae. Scoring four and coming away with nothing from their first campaign will hurt, but hopefully we’ll see them back in the competition in future.
Full Time: Lae City Dwellers 4 – 5 Solomon Warriors
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.