Two of the strongest teams of the current edition of the OFC Champions League are ready for a battle in the group B held in Luganville, Vanuatu. The PNG National Soccer League title holders Lae City are ready to play against Lautoka from Fiji, both sides needing a win to boost their chances to proceed to the next stage of the most important club football tournament in Oceania.
Lae and Lautoka draw their starting matches in the first matchday; Lae had a thrilling game against the Solomon Islanders of Henderson Eels, while Lautoka had a lot of difficulties to hold the hosts Malampa Revivors to a 1-1 draw in the second match of the group B.
Lautoka did not impress, Lae also did not impress; they will be coming hard to change the mind of their supporters, willing to see a better football displayed by the both sides, that certainly have the quality for doing a very good game for the Ni-Vanuatu fans.
The captain-fantastic is always a danger; the historical number 7 of Lae City is still to score in the competition, but already provided one assist – for the first goal of Emmanuel Simon. Lae has very well-known players in their squad, as the goalkeeper Ronald Warisan, the defender Valentine Nelson and the forward Nigel Dabinyaba, but it was Mancii – as Emmanuel Simon is known in his country – that scored twice for his side in the 3-3 draw against Eels, while Dabinyaba added another. Despite their good attack, the team shown defensive problems and will need to fix them to collect all points from the encounter. The fans are also expecting to see more from the Ecuadorians signed for the Champions League, Gustine Vergara and Abdias Aguirre – only Aguirre came from bench in the previous match and Vergara did not play.
Anand Sami used a different team than usual in the first game – it did not work. Jason Thomas did not have a good match playing as defensive midfielder, while the back three did not show the consistency the fans expected from them. The attack of the Fijians did not create much chances to score, having less men upfront.
The idea of Sami is good, but the team was very slow in the transition to attack, allowing the opponent to regroup. Lautoka might have some chances to face the strong Lae City and they will rely on the capability of Dave Radrigai that is back from suspension.
Both sides know a defeat can be a major blow for their chances to qualify for the knock-out stages, but we can expect a lively game which both sides will look to capitalise on the opponent mistakes – a lot of pace will be put in the counter-attacks.