Oceania Football Confederation > News > 2012 O-League > Group A set to take full focus

Group A set to take full focus

Tefana are set to welcome Fijians Ba to Tahiti and the hosts will be desperate to kick start their campaign after notching just one point so far. Ba, who will be in confident mood after booking their place in next year’s O-League with a second successive National Football League title win last weekend, meanwhile need at least a point from the trip to stay in touch with group leaders Waitakere United.
The west Aucklanders will travel to New Caledonia to take on Mont-Dore in a clash that looks a mismatch on paper but could turn out to prove anything but. Waitakere would be expected to win based on current form – their impressive victories against Tefana and Ba have put them very much in the box seat of Group A – but they have struggled on their travels in recent times and failed to earn a win on either of their visits to New Caledonia and Tahiti last season.
Indeed, Waitakere gained only one point as an away side in the previous O-League and coach Neil Emblen identified this as an area in which his team must improve during the build up to the new season. The draw has so far been relatively kind to the two-time champions by allowing them to begin with two home games but the next pair of matches could well define their season with the Mont-Dore clash followed by a trip to Tefana in February, a fixture lost 3-1 last term.
While keen to shake the tag of poor travelers, Emblen feels his side can at least take comfort from the fact that their bright start to the O-League has given them more margin for error.
“It makes it hopefully a bit easier for us now when we travel away,” he says. “There’s less pressure on us with two home wins under our belt.”
One thing in Emblen’s favour in solving those away day blues is the lethalness of Waitakere’s attack, which has struck 14 times already in just two matches. That total makes them the O-League’s top scorers by some distance and Mont-Dore coach Thierry Sardo is fully aware of the talents of the likes of Roy Krishna, Allan Pearce, Ryan De Vries and youngster Sean Lovemore.
“We have worked hard on defence and our play around the penalty area,” Sardo says. “But we will play our own game and make sure we stay watchful on the counter attack and in defending free kicks.”
Mont-Dore are in the midst of their return to the O-League after a four-year absence and have begun slowly, losing their opening match 2-1 to Ba and securing their first point with a 1-1 draw in the francophone derby against Tefana. The latter match was their first at home and Sardo will be keen to put together an unbeaten run at the magnificent Stade Numa Daly, a ground likely to be found intimidating by visiting sides.
“The team is in a good mood at the moment and we have prepared well to receive Waitakere,” he says. “We really need a success in this match if we want to do well in the rest of the competition.”
Sardo’s only injury is to Yoann Gerbet, replaced in the squad by Kalaje Gnipate, but is without the services of Dominique Sawa and Rony Atti through suspension.
Tefana have just as much need for three points and are propping up the table thanks to their minus 10 goal difference – an unwanted statistic that came about largely due to their 10-0 humiliation at the hands of Waitakere on the opening day. They restored some confidence by sharing the spoils with Mont-Dore in that 1-1 draw but will want to take a further step on the path to redemption with a positive outcome against Ba.
The match takes place on Friday evening local time and is Tefana’s first home fixture of the campaign.
“Our preparation has been good and the squad is very focused on playing our first O-League game at home against a difficult team,” coach Laurent Heinis says. “We don’t have any particular strategy in mind in terms of dealing with Ba but we will need to see a Tefana team that is ready to respond to the physical challenge.”
Ba took their physical play too far in the 4-0 defeat to Waitakere when Marika Madigi was sent off just after half-time and the midfielder is now suspended for this week’s game. Spirits in the camp will be high though after the national league title triumph – secured with a 4-0 win over Savusavu in the final round of the competition – and the players will be keen to bounce back from that disappointment against Waitakere, witnessed by over 4,500 fans at Auckland’s Fred Taylor Park.
Coach Yogendra Dutt will be hoping there is still enough energy in the legs of his charges as the Men in Black have played a remarkable 61 matches in all competitions this season, comfortably beating the previous club record of 46 set in 2007.
“This is the last match of the first half of the O-League and our last as far as the 2011 season is concerned,” president Rishikendra Kumar says. “It will not be an easy task against Tefana as away matches are always tough but I have faith that the boys will do us proud.”
Tefana also do not have a full squad to select from as Heimano Bourebare is suspended and Lorenzo Tehau remains absent for personal reasons.
There are no matches in Group B this weekend as the Hekari United-Koloale clash has been postponed until December 10 because of ground availability issues while Auckland City’s meeting with Amicale will not take place until January 18 due to Auckland’s involvement in the FIFA Club World Cup, being held this month in Japan.

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