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2022 in review: OFC Champions League

Auckland City FC have won the OFC Champions League 2022 title. Photo credit: OFC Media via Phototek.

Another tournament to make its return to the calendar was the OFC Champions League, held at Ngahue Reserve in Auckland in August.

A total of 14 teams from eight OFC member associations were eligible to enter the competition. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the format of the competition was changed, with all teams entering a qualifying stage consisting of a qualifying tournament and national play-offs, in order to keep travel to a minimum.

In the qualifiers, Rewa FC beat Lautoka to be Fiji’s representative. Hienghène Sport beat Ne Drehu from New Caledonia, Lae City beat Hekari United in Papua New Guinea, Central Coast beat Warriors in the Solomon Islands, AS Venus beat Pirae in Tahiti and Galaxy FC claimed the Vanuatu spot by beating RueRue. Nikao Sokattak from the Cook Islands and Auckland City advanced directly to the main draw.

As expected, home side Auckland City were a dominant force, scoring 12 goals and only conceding one in their three Group B wins. Hienghène Sport defeated Rewa 2-0 to claim the other semifinal spot from the group, but arguably the biggest cheer went to Nikao Sokattak when they briefly led Auckland 1-0 thanks to a goal from captain Stephen Willis.

Group A was a close one, with AS Venus and Central Coast finishing on six points each, with the Tahitians claiming top spot due to a superior goal difference.

Venus then swept past Hienghène Sport 4-0 in their semifinal, with Auckland beating Central Coast 2-0. Venus and Tahiti national team striker Teaonui Tehau was in fine form, scoring in every match at that point with four goals and a Player of the Match award.

It was a very cool winter’s day at The Home Of Football fields for the final, which didn’t stop Auckland City from simply picking up where they’d left off in the previous matches, with Cam Howieson scoring from the penalty spot in the 13th minute. Gerard Garriga doubled the lead 16 minutes later, then Auckland simply controlled the rest of the game before Emiliano Tade added a third just before fulltime.

The win was Auckland City’s 10th overall in the OFC Champions League, making it the most successful team in the competition’s history. It also qualified them for the FIFA Club World Cup, which they memorably made the semifinal stages of in 2014. Tehau finished the tournament as top goal scorer, with Howieson, Garriga and Clifford Fafale of Central Coast tied for second place with three goals each.

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