Football was not in the limelight in Papua New Guinea’s premier footballing division this weekend. Despite an important round, the results and player performance took a back seat because of a series of refereeing errors in the PNG National Soccer League on the fifteen weekend of football.
In the first game of the weekend, the powerhouse Hekari United won against brave Gulf Komara 2-0; the team coached by David Aua was strong enough to put the Reds under pressure in the early minutes of the game, but a fantastic solo effort by Ati Kepo allowed Hekari to take the lead as Nigel Dabinyaba only needed to tap in after a superb assist from the quick striker. Hekari did not count on Carlos Onne and star striker Raymond Gunemba, but they controlled most of the game after Gulf Komara’s defender Kila Numa was sent off after his second yellow. Numa should have seen the red card earlier when he pushed the referee David Yareboinen after the latter pointed to the penalty spot following a foul on Kolu Kepo. Strangely enough, after Yareboinen was pushed by Kila Numa and Ilagi Geno, the referee eventually decided to change the decision on the field – Numa only received yellow, and Komara were awarded a drop ball in their favour.
The second half was also intense, with Hekari letting their opponents have the ball in order to strike back at them on the counterattack. Komara was never really close to Dave Tomare’s goal, but managed to have most of the possession in the second part of the game. In the late phase of the game, the experienced Wira Wama came off the bench and scored the last goal of the match by a header, securing a 2-0 win for the Eric Komeng-coached side.
But the worst part of the weekend did not come from Port Moresby; the clash between Morobe United and Star Mountain at Sir Ignatius Kilage Stadium did not even reach a conclusion. Alex Kamen and Junior Guaf both scored Morobe United goals to put the locals in the lead, then Star Mountain began their recovery in the game thanks to a goal from Pettyshen Elijah, and everything pointed to a fine comeback when William Lahai scored the equaliser for the Port Moresby-based side.
After protests from the players of Morobe United, the referee of the match decided not to allow the Star Mountain’s second goal. The decision took around 15 minutes to be made and was not accepted by the Star Mountain staff, so the team left the pitch with more than 20 minutes left to play. The PNG Football Association has yet to issue a statement on the incident.
Also in Lae, after the confusing clash of Morobe United-Star Mountain, many refereeing mistakes were made in the following game – completely unacceptable mistakes. Lae City opened the scoring thanks to Obert Bika against Morobe Wawens, and were close to doubling the lead after the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Emmanuel Simon converted the penalty kick, but the referee did not allow the goal. According to the laws of the game, if the ball isn’t on the spot, or a player encroaches on the penalty area during the kick, the penalty kick should be retaken. In fact, the decision was different: the referee did not allow Simon to take the penalty kick again and simply awarded Wawens a free kick. The Lae City players were angry with the referee, but the decision had already been made. In the first half, Emmanuel Airem scored another goal for the reigning champions.
In the second half, another important incident took place: Papua New Guinea international Alwin Komolong received a direct red card in the middle of the last part of the game. The referee’s motivation is still uncertain, but rumour has it that Komolong cursed at the referee – the player denies doing so. Despite Komolong’s absence, Lae was able to secure a clean sheet and continue to play at the top of the table with this 2-0 victory.
Two other matches were played in Port Moresby: FC Bougainville hit Madang-based Tusbab Stallions, who continue to live their nightmare, hard. Despite a good start to the game, it was Bougainville who scored the first goal for the home team through Elton Banem. The second half was completely one-sided as FCB scored four more goals: Basil Jofari was the first to find the net, Danny Vetali scored a quick brace for his side, while substitute Eaka Philemon ended the party for the team coached by David Passam.
The final match of the day was more difficult than expected for Vitiaz United, but they still managed to beat FC Kutubu 4-1. The season’s top scorer, Jonathan Allen, opened the account for Vitiaz, but it did not take Kutubu long to equalise thanks to a goal from midfielder Sarufa Peter. In the second half, Mathew David was gifted a goal after a terrible mistake by Kutubu’s goalkeeper, before Allen scored another goal, his twelfth this season, and David scored his second goal of the game with a powerful shot in injury time, securing another three points for the second-placed team in the standings.
You can see the current standings, top scorers and full results of the season so far by visiting our session of the 2019/20 PNG National Soccer League.