Debutants Henderson Eels opened their Telekom S-League with a 1-1 draw against defending champions Marist FC on Saturday at Lawson Tama.
The newcomers went down to an early goal as veteran Solomon Islands international Henry Fa’arodo scored his debut goal for Marist in the 17th minute of the first half.
With a number of experience players in their ranks, the Eels regrouped to search for an equaliser in the TSL opener.
Alick Mamae won a 50-50 ball in the middle of the park to send Captain Dennis Ifunaoa through on goal.
Ifunaoa led by example to draw level as the encounter head towards half-time.
Both sides return onto the pitch in second half looking for a match winner but gallant defending by both sets of defenders means the opening match of the 2017/2018 TSL season ends with a draw.
Speaking to Sunday Sports after the thrilling match, Marist head coach Juliano Schmeling said he was disappointed his lads could not steal maximum points.
“I think for me it was not a good start as we were expecting full three points coming into the game,” Schmeling said.
“After the final whistle I will have to be honest in the first half we didn’t perform well,” he added.
“I think we gave to them too much time on the ball but in the second half we definitely played better.
“We totally respect the Eels side because they have a good team and I think it’s a good start for this season for them,” the Brazilian said.
His opposite number Eels head coach Chris Asipara gave credit to his players for a great start to the new season.
“I am very happy with the boys because they did very well against the defending champions who have been together for a while.
“That game gave us a moral boost as we will try to better in the next game,” he stated.
International signing PNG’s David Muta marked his debut appearance with an impressive performance wearing the arm band after Ifunaoa was replaced in the second half.
“Muta is doing very well as he is adapting to our style of play.
“I think he will be a very important player for us this season just Alick Maemae, Clifton Aumae who were outstanding in midfield today (yesterday),” Asipara added.
Eels new signing Joses Nawo was shown a red card in added time after a reckless tackle on Marist’s Brazilian defender.
Despite a man down, Eels held on for a share of the spoils to register their first point on the table.
By SIMON ABANA