BY ROMULUS HUTA
Marist 1, AS Magenta 1
MARIST’S hopes of progression into the last eight of the Oceania Champions League hinges on the results of the final pool play this Friday.
This follows their one-all draw against AS Magenta of New Caledonia yesterday afternoon at Lawson Tama Stadium.
The draw makes it two in a row for the Oceania Champions League Group D hosts.
In their campaign opener on Saturday against Team Wellington they also drew 1-1.
Marist currently sits third on the table with two points behind Team Wellington and AS Magenta who are occupying the first and the second places respectively with four points each.
Like the Saturday’s contest, Marist took up early lead in the first five minutes through a header from towering defender Michael Boso.
A free kick unleashed from the right by Atkin Kaua found an awaiting Boso on the far post who nodded home past the Magenta shot-stopper Mikael Ulile, sending the home crowd into frenzy.
Six minutes later, a stunning volley by Joseph Athale from outside the box silenced the home crowd and brought the scoreline to one-all.
Athale capitalized on a loose ball headed out by Marist defender Joachim Waroi via a corner where he made no mistake in hammering the ball past keeper Anthony Talo for a spectacular equalizer.
The goal livened Magenta’s fighting spirit and they began to create more chances through Richard Sele’s sneaky runs onto the Marist defense causing trouble for Koriak Upaiga, Boso and Waroi.
Talo stood out well for the homeside between the two sticks pulling out some fine saves against Magenta’s continued onslaught.
Marist also had attempts which could have changed the scoreline for a victory for the hosts but Magenta’s defense proved to be on their best yesterday as they stopped the threats mounted upon them.
Henry Fa’arodo was a tireless worker on the pitch for Marist providing well-needed support to his defenders and so as instrumental in orchestrating upfield attacking moves.
In the second spell, Marist was forced to play with 10 men following Abraham Iniga’s dismissal through a second bookable offence in the 66th minute.
Marist’s one-man down on the pitch did not cause too much disadvantage for them as Magenta’s defense had to make two goal line saves and denied Marist the chance for a winner via a perfect combination from Mathias Ian, Kaua and Davidson Tome.
Toward stoppage time, Magenta’s Maraima Tchao had a point blank range opportunity inside the six yard box which if converted could have been the goal of the day but squandered the chance with a bad touch and let the ball flew out wide.
Marist won a corner in the final act of the match but their goal opportunity was denied by Magenta leaving the scoreline to remain at 1-1 till the final whistle.
Marist’s final match is against Samoan outfit Lupe Ole Soaga at 4pm this Friday while Magenta takes on Team Wellington in the 1pm fixture.
A big win for Marist against Lupe Ole Soaga will see them earning a place in the quarterfinals but that has to depend on the result of the earlier encounter between Magenta and Team Wellington where the hosts will be hoping very much for a victory for either side.
A draw between the two sides and win for Marist will see all three finishing pool play with five points each and qualifications into the quarterfinal will have to be determined through goal difference calculations.
The winner of the Group D competition gets the advantage of playing its quarterfinal at home.