After a 1-1 draw last weekend, Auckland City FC and Wellington Olympic have it all to play for in the second leg of their OFC Champions League 2023 National Play-Off.
The NZ National Play-Off is the final match in an intriguing series of contests around the Oceania region, with the two sides meeting at Kiwitea St, Auckland, on Saturday afternoon NZT.
Auckland City FC coach Albert Riera says his team “know this is a massive game.”
“All the players and the club know that, they’ve been training very hard,” he said at the side’s final training during the week.
Wellington Olympic started last weekend’s game very strongly, creating several chances in the opening 10 minutes. Riera says that he takes the blame for the situation they found themselves in at Martin Luckie Park, where at halftime they were staring at a 1-0 deficit after Joel Stevens put a fired-up home side ahead.
“We didn’t start very well, especially since we knew we were playing against a good team. We’ve addressed that as well at the end of the game, but it’s not the first time that’s happened to us – so that’s a bit concerning. I’m 100 percent sure we can correct that. I have to be honest, the way we were playing tactically didn’t work. That was my bad. I said that to the players. But I am fortunate to have a good team – even if tactically it’s not working they can work around it,” he said.
Riera’s side certainly rallied in the second half, answering back with a goal to Christian Gray in the 79th minute, and were unlucky not to pull ahead with a flurry of chances as time expired.
“In the second half we played the way we wanted and took over and dominated. Sometimes it takes longer, especially when you play against good sides like Olympic, but we can’t get carried away. It was a draw.”
Auckland City FC have won the OFC Champions League a record 10 times, something that Riera is adamant they want to add to in 2023 by qualifying this weekend.
“We like to play these games, we want to play these games. The players are tactically and mentally ready, we know we’re playing against a very good team but playing at home in front of our home crowd means a lot.”