INDEPENDENT NEWS

Hekari United Into OFC Women's Champions League Final After Extra-time Victory

Published: Thu 21 Mar 2024 05:43 AM
Hekari United were made to work hard for their semi-final victory by Labasa Women FC, as the Papua New Guinea side scored twice in extra-time to ensure they will play in Saturday’s final at the OFC Women’s Champions League.
Hekari United captain Marie Kaipu lead from the front for her side, with a chance inside the first minute, finding herself clear of Labasa’s defence but dragging her shot wide.
Both sides had established attacking strategies – for the Fijians, via Anasimeci Volitikoro on the left wing, for Hekari United, the direct combination play of Michaelyne Butubu and Marie Kaipu
Labasa had a golden opportunity to take the lead through Narieta Leba in the 23rd minute, as Leba shrugged off her defender, only to miscue her shot – much to the relief of the small but passionate Hekari United fan contingent inside the National Stadium.
The Fijians came close again in the 29th minute, Leba turning provider this time, slipping in Stella Naivaluvelu with a well-weighted through ball, though Fidelma Watpore was quick off her line to smother the danger.
A high press nullified both sides in the first-half, with goalkeepers regularly the only player in their half. Despite only scoring three goals in the group stages, Labasa ended the first period looking the more likely to score, creating more clear cut chances through Volitikoro and Leba.
Neither side were able to break the deadlock in regular time and inevtiably extra-time loomed large. Despite being the group stage’s highest goal scorers, Hekari United created fewer clear cut chances than Labasa, heavily leaning on Kaipu’s ability to pull something out of nothing when surrounded by defenders, or through her creating space for Butubu by occupying the defenders’ attentions.
The Papua New Guinea side were the dominant force for much of the additional 30 minutes and eventually found the crucial breakthrough on the 100th minute mark.
A loose ball bouncing in the Labasa area wasn’t sufficiently cleared and Nenny Elipas took advantage of the Fijian side’s inability to deal with the danger, lashing the ball home to give Hekari a vital lead.
Kaipu narrowly missed adding a second, driving into the penalty area and striking well, only to see her effort tipped around the post. Hekari came close to breaching the net off the resultant corner, but Labasa held on.
It felt a second Hekari goal was always likely and it duly came with a little over five minutes remaining. The influential Kaipu drove into the Labasa area and, having drawn in the defender, squared for the unmarked Christie Maneu to lash in from a few yards out – confirming the result and her side’s place in the final.
Hekari United FC: 2 (Nenny ELIPAS 100, Christie MANEU 114’)
Labasa Women FC: 0
HT: 0-0

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