The top three teams in the Papua New Guinea National Soccer League all scored big this weekend and extended their lead ahead of the chasing pack, with Mathew David of Vitiaz United continuing his remarkable recent run of goalscoring form by hitting four goals in a 6-3 victory over Tusbab Stallions.
For the first time in National Soccer League history, all three games in Port Moresby were streamed live on EMTV, allowing fans – who are still not allowed in the stadium due to COVID-19 restrictions – to watch their favourite teams in action.
The early kick-off in Port Moresby saw fifth-placed Gulf Komara host Morobe United, with the sides having enjoyed contrasting fortunes on the previous weekend. Komara had come out losers in a seven-goal thriller against FC Kutubu, while Morobe United had picked up only their second win of the season against high-flying Tusbab Stallions in Lae.
The first half was a tepid affair, with neither side able to create any real clear cut chances, and the two sides went into the locker rooms goalless. However, Gulf Komara came out roaring in the second half, and five minutes in, Ilagi Geno spurned a great chance. Morobe United goalkeeper Koniel Vagi hoofed the ball upfield, but it returned quickly to the United half, with Kenneth Arah chipping a curved ball through to Emil Rupa bursting forward, and his pinpoint cross found its way to the feet of Geno, who made no mistake second time around, firing into the Morobe United net to open the scoring.
Roughly ten minutes later, Gulf Komara had a second, with Geno again capitalising from a low cross into the box that evaded the Morobe United defence to smash the ball into the net from close range. The side based in the Erema region looked comfortable for the remainder of the game until a defensive mishap two minutes into injury time gifted Morobe United a late penalty. Experienced ex-Lae City defender Valentine Nelson scored from the spot – despite having his first successful attempt called back for encroachment – but it was too little, too late for the Lae-based side, and they slipped to their seventh defeat of the campaign.
The second game in the capital saw second-placed Vitiaz United take on Tusbab Stallions in what was a sign of things to come in the rest of the day’s matches. Vitiaz took the lead in the sixth minute after an innocuous-looking ball forward was poorly dealt with by the Tusbab defence, and Mathew David snuck in to score his first of the game.
The remainder of the second half was relatively even, with Vitiaz having the better of the chances until the last five minutes of the half, when a looping corner taken by Jason Wadunah soared over the head of Russell Chris in the Vitiaz goal and somehow found its way into the back of the net. A somewhat fortuitous goal, but one which looked to be taking the Stallions into the dressing rooms on level terms. However, two minutes later, Vitiaz had themselves a penalty after a foul in the box, which winger Jonathan Allen tucked away calmly to restore Vitiaz’ lead. Almost directly from the kick-off, Tusbab gave away the ball in midfield and Vitiaz took advantage, breaking forward and easily passing through the Stallions’ defensive turmoil, with Mathew David slamming his second goal in from just inside the box. Thus ended the second half.
Just moments after the restart, Vitiaz had a fourth – a gorgeously weighted through ball cut through the Stallions defence and found the feet of – you guessed it – Mathew David once again. A left-footed zinger found its way into the back of the net for the fifth time in the match, and David wheeled away to celebrate his hattrick. Stallions didn’t give in, though, and kept fighting for a way back into the match. This lifeline arrived in the 72nd minute when the referee awarded Stallions a somewhat dubious penalty after Russell Chris allegedly fouled a Stallions attacker while coming to claim the ball. Midfielder Michael Saun tucked away the penalty, sending Chris the wrong way. 4-2.
As Stallions pushed forwards for the two goals they needed to level the scores, the gaps became even wider in the defence. With then minutes to go, nifty footwork from Eliud Fugre found Yagi Yasasa in space just a few yards from goal, and putting the ball in the back of the net was a mere formality. On the brink of injury time, Jonathan Allen’s lofted ball found Mathew David yet again, who scorched another left-footed shot past Graham Berigami to make it 6-2. With the game all but over, Jason Wadunah scored a late consolation – a lovely free-kick from the edge of the box – to round off a nine-goal thriller.
The final game in Port Moresby saw Hekari United take on FC Kutubu. With regular first-choice goalkeeper Ishmael Pole suspended after being sent off at the end of the last week’s clash against Lae City, Dave Tomare was between the sticks for the Red Army, while a new-look midfield of David Muta, Willie Gia and Wira Wama started the match, as did new recruits Nigel Dabinyaba and Raymond Gunemba.
Hekari took almost half an hour to score the first goal, which started after tenacious midfield play from David Muta regained possession for the Reds. Junior David was then released on the right flank, and his ball found Dabinyaba in acres of space, who had time to control the ball, pick his spot, and strike the ball past the Kutubu ‘keeper. The goal settled some Hekari nerves, and five minutes before half-time, it was Gunemba’s turn to capitalise on a Junior David cross, with some nifty footwork creating space and time to drill the ball home for Hekari’s second. In first-half injury time, a loss of concentration in the Kutubu defence allowed Gunemba a second just before the referee blew his whistle.
Five minutes into the second half Ati Kepo was released with a wonderfully-weighted through pass, and he made no mistake, drilling Hekari’s fourth into the far corner. Langarap Samol added a fifth from a David Muta corner just after the hour mark, and Kepo, fed by Dabinyaba, scored an almost identical goal to his first to add Hekari’s sixth. Kepo almost completed his hat-trick late on, but his third goal – and Hekari’s seventh – was ruled out for offside.
In Lae, Morobe Wawens moved up to sixth with another home victory, this week against Star Mountain. Wawens goals came from Joshua Paget and Teddy Tommy, while Star Mountain’s consolation came from Lahai William, his first goal of the season. In the 1pm kick-off, Lae City put nine past FC Bougainville, with all goals coming from different scorers. Notable players who scored were Alwin Komolong – his first since returning to the side – Gustine Icaza – the Ecuadorian’s first goal for the club too – and Jacob Sabua, who has now scored in three successive weeks.
FC Bougainville manager Percy Mataio revealed after the game that he had not been in charge of the club for this match, and would no longer be managing the team going forward. Stay tuned for an exclusive about what happened later this week. Bougainville’s consolation goals came from a Philip Steven own goal and Abel Redenut.