Marist out, Lautoka through
By Taromane Martin
MARIST FC’s fairy tale run at the 2018 Oceania Champions League football competition has ended at the Lawson Tama Stadium on Sunday.
They crashed out of the competition after losing 1-0 to Lautoka FC (2-1 on aggregate) in their second leg semi-final match at a packed Lawson Tama Stadium.
Marist had numerous chances to put the game to sleep in the first half but saw their attacks crumbling thanks to the strong defensive presence of Brian Kaltack, Kolinio Sivoki and Beniamino Mateinaqara manning the posts.
The scores were tied 0-0 at half time but changed midway in the second half, 23 year old Praneel Naidu, beating Marist’s goal keeper Anthony Talo to see the visitors leading.
Array of chances went begging for Marist in the second half, Timothy Bakale, Abraham Iniga and Atkin Kaua, who had the best chance to level the scores, all unable to convert.
Marist Head Coach Jerry Allen was disappointed with the result but praised his players for taking the club this far in the competition.
“For me I think our frontline is still and has been a problem for us in this campaign,” Allen said.
“Everyone knew and has seen this but then again I had to stick with the players because they are the only resources I had at my disposal,” Allen said.
“But then we also had a lot of injuries to some of the senior boys in the squad so left me very little choice but to send in the young boys.
“Koriak is out with a hamstring injury, even Talo (Anthony) was not supposed to play today due to injury.
But he is a strong boy and his experience really helped us today (Sunday 28th April).
“They (Lautoka) had only one clear opportunity and they converted it. Should we have converted our chances in the first half it could have been a victory or draw.
“I’m very proud and happy with the boys. Everybody has seen our squad. We have a lot of inexperience players but I’m very pleased they had taken us this far which is a new history for the club.
“For me this will be very helpful for the club’s future especially for the young players in the team. This is a good experience for the boys and I believe will be a bonus for the TSL and should we make it back again,” he said.
But for Lautoka FC the fairy tale will continue.
Head Coach Kamal Swamy was pleased with the win saying Marist made it tough for his side and admitted they were just lucky to win.
“This is the second time we qualified to this competition but is a first time for us to be in the final of this competition.
“I’m pleased. The boys gave a hundred percent. They knew they were a goal down coming here and really stuck to our game plan.
“No doubt Marist is a great team and made it tough for us but we’re lucky to win here,” he said.
Lautoka FC will play Team Wellington FC in the home and- away final of the OFC Champions League 2018 with the first challenge a trip to New Zealand’s capital on the weekend of 12 and 13 May before welcoming their opponent to Churchill Park for the return leg a week later.