Lae City, Vitiaz United and Hekari United will all be seeking home wins in the Papua New Guinea National Soccer League this weekend, with all three sides needing to continue winning to keep up the pace at the top of the division.
Vitiaz and Lae will kick off simultaneously in Port Moresby and Lae respectively, with their games coming at 1pm local time, meaning Hekari United will already know the results of their rivals when they take on FC Kutubu in Port Moresby at 3pm.
The early kick-offs see Morobe Wawens host Star Mountain in Lae, with Morobe United travelling to Port Moresby to take on Gulf Komara.
Of the four sides, Star Mountain are in the best form, having not lost in the two matches since the league resumed at the start of August. Last week’s 3-1 victory over FC Bougainville was an impressive one, but they will need to be aware of Wawens’ ability to pull a result out of the bag at home – all four of Wawens’ victories this season have been when they were playing in Lae. The two sides didn’t actually play each other in the first half of the season – Star Mountain were awarded a 3-0 victory after Wawens were unable to finance the journey to Port Moresby. Wawens will be itching to set the record straight this time around.
Gulf Komara host Morobe United, but they are in wretched form defensively, having conceded nine goals in their two games since the restart. This is their first home game since the restart, so they will be keen to take advantage of United’s tired legs, but the loss of key players Carlos Onne and Donovan Murray has clearly been felt since the league resumed. United, meanwhile, pulled off a surprise victory over high-flying Tusbab Stallions last weekend – their first victory since January 25th – and will be hoping to capitalise on that morale-boosting victory with another win this time around.
At 1pm, Lae City host FC Bougainville in Lae. Bougainville, under the management of Percy Mataio, have had a less-than-ideal restart, having lost both of their games since the break, against Hekari United and an in-form Star Mountain side. Lae City, meanwhile, seem to have shrugged off the loss of key strikers Raymond Gunemba and Nigel Dabinyaba with two big victories, including last week’s 1-0 win over massive rivals Hekari United in their own backyard. The side are still struggling to find the best solution for their lack of an out-and-out goalscorer, but contributions from midfield – especially from Jacob Sabua most recently – have thus far seen them over the line.
Vitiaz United are still level on points with Lae City and look like they might push the reigning champions all the way – a 2-2 draw against Star Mountain upon the resumption of play was quickly put to bed thanks to Mathew David’s marvellous hat-trick against Morobe Wawens last week, and the side are only second on goal difference. However, their visitors this week are Tusbab Stallions, who despite being out of form, are still a dangerous prospect with several of the brightest young talents in the country in their ranks. Stallions haven’t won since the restart and are in danger of being caught by clubs behind them, so they will be exceptionally keen to consolidate their position in fourth place and perhaps spoil the Vitiaz party in the process.
The final game of the day sees Hekari United host FC Kutubu. On paper, this should be a one-sided affair: Hekari defeated Kutubu 4-1 in Goroka earlier in the season, and Hekari’s squad is now arguably more potent in attack than it was in the first half of the season. However, Kutubu have enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance after the departure of head coach Mathew Witu, remaining undefeated since the restart and having scored six goals in two games. Hekari would do well not to underestimate their brothers from the Highlands.