After living up to fans expectations by securing a first-ever victory in the OFC Champions League, Vanuatu club champions Nalkutan FC are keen for a repeat performance against Qualifier winners Tupapa Maraerenga.
But fans will have to wait to see the home side in action as big winners on day one, Lae City Dwellers, take on Ba FC of Fiji in Group A’s first Match Day 2 encounter.
Making the step from Qualifier football to Group Stage for the first time in 17 years was a steep learning curve for Tupapa Maraerenga, who now face another uphill challenge against Nalkutan.
Playing with a stacked defence in an effort to contain the speed and agility of Lae’s strike force was the obvious game plan for Tupapa but it was one they struggled with. The approach left the players unsure of their roles at times and when they opened up a bit in the second half especially, they were able to better retain possession and create some opportunities for themselves.
However Alex Napa knows that taking on Nalkutan is going to require an even greater effort from his team.
“I think Nalkutan will be the top team of the competition so we will take a totally different approach,” Napa said.
“We’ll try, and I say that with the best intentions, we’ll try and contain their style of play. We know it’s going to be difficult but I think we’re going to open up our players to the opportunity to expand themselves, come to the stage and take it from there.”
After a rip-roaring start to the competition, Moise Poida believes his side is ready to continue along in the same vein.
“Everybody looked good, were well focused and the physical fitness was good,” Poida said.
“We take the matches one by one and we’re very serious about the way we play.”
Group A resumes for Match Day 2 of the OFC Champions League on Tuesday 13 February with Lae City Dwellers taking on Ba at 2pm followed by Tupapa Maraerenga against Nalkutan at 5pm.
Tupapa Maraerenga [COK] vs. Nalkutan FC [VAN] #OFCCL #TUPNLK
Port Vila, Vanuatu
Tuesday 13 February
Kick-off: 17h00 local
(16h00 PNG / 18h00 FIJ / 20h00 COK 12/02)
Referee: Matthew CONGER (NZL)
Assistant Referee 1: Simon LOUNT (NZL)
Assistant Referee 2: Tevita MAKASINI (TGA)
Fourth Official: Mederic LACOUR (NCL)
Vital Statistics: With one more goal in the Group Stage Tupapa Maraerenga can equal the record of three goal for the club set in their debut and only previous appearance in 2001.
The Players: Tyrell Barringer-Tahiri’s work rate is outstanding. Although he’ll be upset at his role in one of the goals conceded, his ability to be putting a shot on goal, then back defending a counter attack was impressive to witness.
Coach Quote: “We’ll try and break the game into parcels of time so the players can manage it better. That’s basically how we’re going to treat the game. It’s going to be difficult, there’s no doubt about it.”
Team List: 1. Keegan INIA (GK), 2. Mii JOSEPH, 3. Sean LATIMER, 4. Teina SAVAGE, 5. Roimata KARIKA, 6. Samuel MAOATE-COX, 7. Campbell BEST, 8. Lee HARMON, 9. Geoffrey STRICKLAND, 10. Grover HARMON, 11. Maro BONSU-MARO, 12. Willyn KARIKA, 13. Packock ABBA, 14. Edward BROGAN, 15. Pekay EDWARDS, 16. Flynn O’Brien, 17. Tyrell BARRINGER-TAHIRI, 18. James HOYT, 19. Anthony SAMUELA, 20. Manaariki PIERRE (GK)
Coach: Alex NAPA [COK]
Vital Statistics: James Naka’s 65th minute penalty will go down in history as Nalkutan’s first goal in the OFC Champions League, and the winner in its first victory.
The Players: As expected the Solomon Islanders in the squad showed their class and experience, but they weren’t the only ones. Bob Isaac was all over the park, Kevin Shem did well up the flank but will need to watch his challenges, especially the late ones. Captain Jeffery Tes also impressed on his regional debut.
Coach Quote: “We look and study how our opponents play and our focus, well, we don’t lose focus. We want to beat anybody here in front of our home crowd and we want to be in the second round.”
Team List: 1. John DAVID YOKAI (GK), 2. Noah ROGER, 3. Nelson SALE, 4. Kevin SHEM, 5. Robert THOMAS, 6. Raoul COULON, 7. Bob ISAAC, 8. Jean TAUSSI, 9. James NAKA, 10. Bong KALO, 11. Azariah SOROMON, 12. Eddison STEPHEN, 13. Pierre ALICK, 14. Kerry IAWAK, 15. Ignace YAMACK, 16. Daniel NATOU, 18. Jeffery TES, 19. Kawia LAVA, 20. Kaloran FIRIAM, 25. Roddy LENGA, 27. Richard MANURIKI, 30. Antoine TAIWIA (GK)
Suspended: 17. Joses NAWO
Coach: Moise POIDA [VAN]