Photo Credit: FTF Media

AS Pirae and AS Tefana have settled for a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the OFC Men’s Champions League – National Playoff in Tahiti, following a pair of late goals. 

Substitutes for either side popped up with the goals at the Stade Pater in Papeete, leaving the tie finely poised heading into the second leg in three days time.

AS Tefana’s high press caused problems for the hosts early on, pushing players high up the pitch and pinning AS Pirae inside their own half. They peppered the home goal with a number of long-range efforts, with Francois Mu directing a header straight at Francois Decoret following a free kick delivery from the right. 

It didn’t take long for Pirae to come up with some answers though, improving their passing accuracy and building possession as the half progressed. 

Desire Ngiamba stood out with a couple of silky touches and dazzling runs throughout the contest. He broke away on the counter-attack fifteen minutes in, advancing into space down the right-hand side of the box, but fired his effort straight down the throat of the goalkeeper for a comfortable save. 

By the half-hour mark AS Pirae were camping themselves inside the opposition half. Ariiura Labaste directed a long range effort over the crossbar, before Raimana Li Fung Kuee saw a first-time effort from the top of the box blocked by a defender close to the goal-line. 

An intriguing tactical battle was being played out by both teams, but a decisive touch was lacking, and the first-half proved a largely cagey affair. 

Tefana should have taken the lead just after the break when Tauatua Lucas found himself with just the goalkeeper to beat. Francois Decoret rushed off his line well to close down the angle and smother Lucas’s shot to keep the scores level.

The visitors then spurned another glorious opening moments later, with Francois Hapipi nodding a header inches over the crossbar right in front of goal following a good corner delivery.

Just as they did in the first-half however, AS Pirae found their feet again. A mistake at the back from Tefana would hand the hosts the opening goal twelve minutes from time. Substitute Sandro Manu Tau raced onto a loose ball in-behind the opposition defence, before rounding the keeper, and picking out the back of the net to  break the deadlock. 

Pirae looked set for a first leg lead as the clock began to tick down, but Klaid Steeven Leon responded with a moment of magic for AS Tefana in the 88th minute. His free kick delivery from the right curled wickedly through the air and flew over the head of Decoret to settle in the back of the net for the equaliser, sparking wild celebrations amongst the visitors.

Eight minutes of injury time gave both sides hope of finding a winner on the night, but more late drama wasn’t in the script.

The tie now heads to a decisive second leg on March 16th to decide Tahiti’s representative at the OFC Men’s Champions League 2024 on home soil.

AS Pirae: 1 (Sandro Manu TAU 78’)
AS Tefana: 1 (Klaid Steeven LEON 88′)

HT: 0-0