14 Feb 2018

Sport: Lae City, Nalkutan advance to knockout rounds

1:21 pm on 14 February 2018

Lae City Dwellers and Nalkutan FC are through to the knockout rounds of the OFC Champions League football competition for the first time.

Papua New Guinea champions Lae City pipped Fiji's Ba FC 1-0 at Korman Stadium in Port Vila on Tuesday to make it back to back wins, while Vanuatu title holders Nalkutan also have maximum points after thrashing Cook Islands champions Tupapa Maraerenga 4-0 in front of their home supporters.

Both teams are assured of a top two finish in Group A with a round to spare and a spot in the quarter finals.

Tuti Zama Tanito scores the only goal of the game.

Tuti Zama Tanito scores the only goal of the game. Photo: OFC via Phototek

Lae City coach Peter Gunemba said he was "over the moon" after Tutizama Tanito's 63rd minute strike ensured they would make it out of the group stage at the third time of trying.

"We outplayed them in the defence. We had a lot of breaks through - we could have scored six or seven scores but we did not and we managed to score only one but it's very good compared to Nalkutan and Tupapa," he said.

"We expected to go this far and our aim was to top this pool and play in the quarter finals.

"We already made it to the quarter finals but our game on Friday is very important. We want to win this, we want to win all our games and prepare for the quarter finals."

Lae City coach Peter Gunemba.

Lae City coach Peter Gunemba. Photo: OFC via Phototek

Nalkutan continued their perfect debut in the Champions League although they had to overcome a second-half red card to James Naka.

Azariah Soromon gave the hosts the lead in the 16th minute.

Azariah Soromon opened the scoring for Nalkutan.

Azariah Soromon opened the scoring for Nalkutan. Photo: OFC via Phototek

James Naka doubled the advantage just before the hour mark but retaliated following a late tackle from Tyrell Barringer-Tahiri as he took his shot and was sent from the field, with Barringer-Tahiri shown a yellow card.

Despite being a man down the home side extended their lead six minutes later through Raoul Coulon before substitute Roddy Lenga completed the scoring minutes from full time.

"We expected that the opponent would come with a totally different strategy and the full block was just outside the penalty area and we couldn't find a way in," said Nalkutan coach Moise Poida.

"But in the second half we changed everything, we started to attack from the sides and get in behind and that's how we were able to score four goals, which was good enough."

Lae City and Nalkutan will put their winning records on the line on Friday, with a draw enough for the PNG side to top the group on goal difference.