Oceania Football Confederation > News > OFC Champions League 2013 > Ba secure top spot as Hekari earn first win

Ba secure top spot as Hekari earn first win

Fijian outfit Ba will be joined in the semi-finals by Vanuatu’s Amicale and each will know their opponents in those home-and-away matches by the end of tomorrow after the Group B action concludes. Waitakere United have already ensured they will progress from Group B but defending champions Auckland City and tournament newcomers Dragon are set to battle for the other spot when they meet tomorrow.
The fight for the knockout stages has not been as tight in Group A with Ba and Amicale booking their safe passage in earlier rounds and Ba had all but secured top spot when the sides clashed today at Govind Park in Ba. As they were only three points behind the Men in Black, Amicale still had a chance of leap-frogging the Fijians but Ba’s vastly superior goal difference meant this was an unlikely prospect and would have taken a remarkable performance to pull off.
Given they were facing a side with a perfect record at home and who were yet to be defeated in the competition, Amicale needed to get off to a good start and were presented with that opportunity in just the third minute when, much to the consternation of Ba’s fanatical fans, referee Matt Conger pointed to spot for the visitors.
French striker Pape Gueye, of whom much was expected in the build-up to the competition but who has found the net just once, was given the responsibility of successfully converting the penalty but failed to double his tournament tally as Ba goalkeeper Jone Ralulu produced a save to extend his team’s impressive run of not conceding on home soil.
Amicale were not immediately made to pay for that error and the match was still scoreless as the half-time whistle blew. But they were handed a lesson in how to keep a cool head from 12 yards when Conger awarded his second penalty of the day just before the hour mark, this time in Ba’s favour. Nigerian import Sanni Issa had scored in every previous round to lead the golden boot race with eight goals and was not about to pass up the chance to notch his ninth, dispatching the ball past Amicale’s Australian goalkeeper Michael Rutherford.
That gave Ba a perfect position from which to continue their undefeated ways and they made sure that would be the case in the 83rd minute when substitute Abbu Zahid justified his introduction by getting on the scoresheet.
“We came into this match with only one aim and that was to win,” Ba coach Yogendra Dutt said. “We have now topped the pool and that is good because it is the right of the top team to play the away leg of the semi-final first. We do not yet know who we will have to play but we will prepare well.”
Dutt’s opposite number was pleased with the performance of his players but felt a lack of concentration at crucial times let them down.
“We committed a few mistakes in the second half and those mistakes cost us the game,” Amicale coach Richard Iwai said. “But we have qualified for the semi-finals and now we will begin our preparations.”
The group’s other match at PMRL Stadium in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, had little riding on it in terms of the outcome of the tournament but was important to both sides nonetheless as each have not performed well this season and were desperate to prove they are worthy of a place at this level.
It was Hekari who earned that right at the expense of Solomon Warriors as goals from Raymond Gunemba and Nigel Dabinyaba, in the 17th and 27th minutes respectively, proved enough to dispose of the tournament debutants. Visiting Warriors, who secured their first ever win of the competition the week before at home to the same opponent, threatened to launch a comeback when a Moffat Kilifa strike put them right back into the contest on 54 minutes.
But the equaliser failed to materialise as Hekari held on to haul themselves off the foot of the table.
The group stages of the OFC Champions League conclude tomorrow with the final round’s Group B games as Dragon play host to Auckland City – a vital match that will decide which of those teams qualifies for the semi-finals – and Waitakere United travel to Mont-Dore.


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