BY ROMULUS HUTA
MARIST was held to a one-all draw by 10-man Lautoka in the first leg encounter of the Oceania Champions League semi-final at Churchill Park yesterday afternoon.
The draw gave an away goal advantage to the Solomon Islands representatives heading into the return leg this Sunday at Lawson Tama.
Davidson Tome put the Jerry Allen-coached side infront six minutes after the half hour mark when he perfectly met a cross in the six-yard box after coming in behind Kavaia Rawaqa to blast the shot past the Lautoka custodian Beniamino Mateinaqara who could do nothing to stop it.
Marist held on to the one goal lead until halftime break.
The match resumed for the second half and veteran striker Osea Vakatalesau was quick to equalise with a glancing header in the 49th minute.
The goal emerged via a corner whipped in from the left by attacking midfielder Cory Chettleburgh where Vakatalesau made no mistake leaping higher above the crowd to send it into the back of the net.
Marist’s hero Tome was shown a yellow card and is certain to sit out the return leg in Honiara through suspension for a second bookable offense.
In the 68th minute, one of Lautoka’s attacking key members Samuela Drudru was sent off after receiving his second yellow card.
While the match was ended in a share of spoils, the fate of the two teams will be decided in the return leg at Lawson Tama this Sunday.
Marist midfielder Atkin Kaua who sat out the first leg through injury is expected to be available for the Honiara leg.
The winner will progress to another two-legged home and away tie in the grand final scheduled for May 12 and May 19, respectively.
The semi-final contest between Marist and Lautoka is set as match one while the other last-four contest between Team Wellington and Auckland City was drawn as match two.
The winner of the Marist-Lautoka encounter will play an away fixture against the winner of the second semi between Auckland City and Team Wellington in the first leg of the grandfinal set for May 12.