Oceania Football Confederation > News > OFC Champions League Preliminary 2014 > Kiwi victory earns OFC Champions League berth

Kiwi victory earns OFC Champions League berth

In very wet conditions the Samoan club champions capitalised on their chances at Pago Park Soccer Stadium in Pago Pago, American Samoa to finish triumphant in the must-win match.
“I’m so excited right now. I know it was hard for us playing on this surface, on the field here but my boys did what we trained to do,” says Kiwi coach Martin Tamasese.
“When we saw yesterday that Tupapa Maraerenga were leading by goal difference, I told my boys we really have to win this game.”
It was a disruptive start to the final day with the opening match between hosts Pago Youth and Tongan club Lotoha’apai United cancelled.
The Local Organising Committee in consultation with OFC staff, match officials and the coaches of the two teams decided to call off the encounter to allow the day’s second match to go ahead.
It was a disappointing end to the tournament for the American Samoa and Tonga teams who were both eager to play.
A decision was also made to bring the match between Tupapa Maraerenga and Kiwi forward by an hour to 2pm although field conditions saw that pushed back to a final kick-off time of 2.30pm (local).
After observing a minute of silence for the late Farouk Janeman, former technical director of the Fiji Football Association, the match got underway.
Unfortunately despite the best efforts of the ground staff conditions hadn’t improved much and both sides were affected by the wet surface stopping the ball short.
Kiwi appeared to settle into the match quicker than their opponents as they got a few early shots on target forcing Tupapa keeper Liam Little into action.
They finally broke through in the 22 minute when Adam Cowan found the back of the net after connecting with a cross from Martin Packer at the back post.
Five minutes later Jaime Mason added a second for Kiwi when the ball rebounded off the post and he arrived at the right moment to power it past Little.
Tupapa continued to press forward and had a number of chances which they were unfortunate not to convert, the closest of which came a minute from half-time when a Sam Margetts rattled the crossbar with a powerful shot.
The Cook Islanders came back firing from the break as Rhys Ruka had a chance that went inches over the cross bar before Margetts again attempted to bring his side back into the match with a shot that Kiwi keeper Masi Toetu managed to collect.
The match took a turn for the worse for Tupapa Maraerenga in the 65 minute of the match when midfielder Grover Harmon was cautioned. Four minutes later it was all over for him as a challenge on Martin Packer saw him receive a second yellow taking Tupapa down to ten men.
Kiwi sealed the victory in the 88 minute as Gaughan added another goal to their tally.
Cheers from the travelling Samoan supporters broke through the downpour as the final whistle blew signalling Kiwi’s qualification for the Champions League for the first time in history.
Kiwi goal-scorer Jaime Mason was overwhelmed after learning the journey will continue for his team.
“Tough conditions, but you do what you’ve got to do out there. We played with our hearts on our sleeves and came away with the result and we’re absolutely ecstatic,” Mason says.
“It means the world to these boys, we’ve been trying real hard this whole week and can’t be happier with this result.”
On the other side it was an incredibly disappointing afternoon of football for defeated Tupapa Maraerenga coach Delaney Yaqona.
“It was incredibly unfortunate that a game like this had to be decided in conditions like this but all congratulations to Kiwi of Samoa,” Yaqona says.
“They adapted a lot faster to the conditions than my team did. They got up by two goals and in conditions like this it’s quite difficult to come back.
“It just took them a while to get stuck into the game and we had a few chances at the beginning but with football you’ve got to be prepared for anything. As I said, we had a few chances but the boys weren’t in the right place at the right time and we didn’t take them, but Kiwi took them and good on them.”
While the line has been drawn on the 2014 Champions League Yaqona says it is by no means the end for his side.
“We’ll definitely be back. We’re halfway through our league so we’ve got to get home and finish off the second half of the season, hopefully stay on top, and qualify for the next edition of this wonderful tournament.”
In the tournament’s individual awards Kiwi duo Joseph Gaughan and Adam Cowan both scored in the final match to secure the Golden Boot award with five goals each. Tupapa Maraerenga’s Byron Paulus received the Golden Ball and Pago Youth goalkeeper Taufaiula Mavaega the Golden Gloves.
Kiwi will now join the New Zealand and Solomon Islands national league champions in Group A of the OFC Champions League in Fiji next April, along with Tahiti’s runners-up.
For the OFC Champions League Preliminary Competition Summary: Download here

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