HEKARI United got their Oceania Football Confederation Championship League campaign off to the best possible start with a 3-2 win over Vanuatu’s Tafea in their Group C match in Suva yesterday.
Wellington beat Tahiti’s Tefana 2–1 in the other match of the group.
The Papua New Guinea champions jumped out of the blocks at ANZ Stadium with a goal to Dennis Ifunaoa in the first minute of play off a cross by Tommy Semmy. Tafea’s Don Mansale had several good touches in an intense opening 10 minutes as both sides felt each other out.
Hekari’s latest recruits Immanuel Poila and goalkeeper Benaminio Mateinaqara were prominent in the opening exchanges.
Semmy bagged the Reds second goal in the 11th minute after out-flanking the Tafea defence to blast one past keeper Seiloni Iaruel.
The eight-time National Soccer League premiers looked to be headed for a big win but Tafea — to their credit — kept their composure as they competed on even terms for the remainder of the half.
Hekari headed to the sheds 2-0 up and every chance of claiming an easy win and that probability was strengthened in the 54th minute through an Alick Maemae goal.
He was helped in no small part by Joachim Waroi, who unselfishly set up his fellow Solomon Islander with a pass across the face of the goal to give the 2010 champions a 3-0 lead.
Tafea proved they are not out of it when star Jean Kaltack hit a curler that that beat a diving Mateinaqara.
Pacific Games-bound Solomon Islander Tutizama Tanito had an impact when he came on for Ifunaoa while the contest threatened to reach boiling point as both sides resorted to muscling in on the ball and getting in other other’s faces.
Kaltack showed his class in the dying stages of the match with his second goal but time ran out for the Vantanu’s second qualifier. Results: Group A – Pirae 3 Lupe Ole Soaga 3, Ba 3 Gaicha 0; Group B – Amicale 1 Western United 0, Suva 0 Auckland City 3; Group C – Wellington 1-Tefana 1, Hekari Unted 3 Tafea 2. The National