Vanuatu’s Malampa Revivors demonstrated sleekness and professionalism as they ran out 3-0 victors over Papua New Guinea’s Lae City FC in the final group match in Group B of the OFC Champions League earlier today. The result means Malampa Revivors qualify for the knockout stages as group winners, while Lae City are eliminated.
With Lae leading the group standings after their 7-0 demolition of Lautoka in the second group match midweek, many expected the side to pick up the win or draw that they required to go through as group winners. However, after Henderson Eels came from two goals behind to defeat Lautoka in the early kick-off, both sides knew that they needed a result from this fixture to join Eels in the next round.
For the most part, both sides kept their sides more-or-less unchanged, with current PNG national team goalkeeper Ronald Warisan replacing the impressive Matheson Nasa in goal, while Andre Batick returned to the Malampa side following his suspension after being sent off in their opening fixture against Lautoka. And it was Batick’s return which made all the difference.
The opening half an hour was a fairly dull affair, but the signs of what was to come were there: Malampa, while not particularly impressive going forward, were tidy at the back, and swept up most of Lae’s attacks with ease. The Lae strikers were, for the most part, nullified by the Malampa defence, and struggled to keep hold of possession.
The breakthrough came just after the half-hour mark, with Lae the architects of their own demise. In a fairly innocuous situation in midfield, poor ball control and defensive positioning led to Batick’s first goal: the ball was given away in the midfield and lofted over the defence, and Batick was released with a nicely-weighted through-ball, and made the finish look easy.
Shortly before half-time, Lae again gave away possession in the midfield, and Malampa were able to capitalise with some swift wing play down the left, before Batick was allowed to control, turn and bury the ball in the goal for Malampa’s second, moments before the half-time whistle.
Despite coming out full of fire in the second half, Lae City were unable to create any real clear cut chances, thanks mainly to the organisation of the Malampa defence. With Lae pushing forward in search of the two goals they needed, gaps began to be exposed in defence, and just before the hour mark, a rather innocuous ball out of defence was won in the air by Batick on the half-way line. The striker proceeded to sprint with the ball into the penalty box with the Lae defence nowhere to be seen, and slotted the ball home for his hat-trick.
As frustrated began to boil over, play began to be disrupted by some niggly fouls from both sides, disrupting the rhythm of the game, rhythm which Lae desperately needed to find. It wasn’t to be, though, and to rub salt into the wounds, Joshua Oscar was sent off for a second bookable offence after a late tackle, and captain Raymond Gunemba followed him down the tunnel after a argument with the referee saw him shown his second yellow card too.
So Malampa will host a quarter-final after finishing top of the group, while Henderson Eels will need to travel to their opponents as runners-up in the group. Lae City, despite their big victory in the second matchday, are eliminated.