Team Wellington have set up a semi-final meeting with AS Magenta from New Caledonia after beating Hekari United 4-0 to finish on top of Group B.
Finalists in 2015, Team Wellington have once again progressed with the maximum nine points while the Hekari’s campaign is over despite two impressive victories from their three matches.
Elsewhere, Suva FA finished their tournament on a high after beating New Caledonia club AS Lössi 3-1 to avoid the wooden spoon in Group B.
Both Team Wellington and Hekari United came into the day’s final match with a six points from two matches but Hekari sat in the box seat co
curtesy of superior goal difference.Although a draw would have been enough for the Papua New Guinea team to progress to the final four, Jerry Allen’s men started the match with intent.
They had the better of the early exchanges with the dangerous Tommy Semmy and Wira Wama threatening. However, Team Wellington did well to weather the storm before asserting their dominance from the 15th minute mark.
Captain Bill Robertson sent the New Zealand side ahead when he rifled a Tom Jackson cross into the top right corner in the 21st minute.
Robertson grabbed his second 16 minutes later with a looping header to give his side a 2-0 lead at the break.
Hekari struggled to deal with Team Wellington’s set pieces and aerial presence throughout the match and that was evident as ever when ten minutes after the break an excellent corner from Leonardo Villa was turned into the net by Tom Jackson.
Wellington Coach Matt Calcott was pleased with his side’s convincing performance to qualify for the semis for the second year in a row.
“Yeah, delighted. Obviously it came down to the last game of the group and it was a real special performance from our boys today, We can go away and rest and recover and look forward to Wednesday.”
Meanwhile, Hekari boss Jerry Allen couldn’t hide his disappointment after the match.
“Yeah that was a really tough game for us. We knew that they were very strong, a well-disciplined team,” he said after the game.
“We started very well in the first ten minutes but our crosses let us down. We didn’t play the way we play. The won all their crosses and we weren’t doing well. They scored early and that wasn’t good for us. So we are very disappointed today but that’s how football goes.”
Saturday’s opening match between Suva and Lössi had no bearings on the semi-finals with both sides already out of the running. However, the two teams were eager to finish with a win.
Suva went into the match searching for their second ever victory in the region’s premier international club competition while the tournament newcomers were hoping to record their maiden Champions League win.
Emmanuel Weijeme wore the gloves for his Champions League debut as AS Lössi’s first choice goalkeeper Michel Hne succumbed to a knee injury.
Weijeme’s first major contribution was to pick the ball out of his net in the ninth minute when Setareki Hughes drove the ball across the face of the goal for the unfortunate Jean Jacques Wahnyamalla to put it past his own keeper.
Hughes looked dangerous all throughout the first half with darting runs on the left flank. In the 19th minute the teenage midfielder beat the offside trap before driving the ball into the far netting from an acute angle.
The Fijians made it 3-0 in the first minute of the second half courtesy of Rusiate Matarerega who skipped past goalkeeper Weijeme to roll the ball into the empty net.
Despite trailing 3-0, AS Lössi dominated possession in the second half with the lively Jim Ouka, Shafi Mandaoue and Joerisse Cexome forcing a string of saves from Benamino Mateinaqara.
The New Caledonians were finally rewarded for their efforts in the 68th minute when Jim Ouka fired home from a Mandaoue cross.
AS Lössi maintained their dominance for the remainder of the match but despite creating a number of good chances they were unable to further decrease the gap.
Suva coach Gurjit Singh was delighted with the way his charges have ended their campaign.
“Definitely happy, we wanted a win and to go back with three points,” he said after the match.
“We played well and I think looking at the whole tournament we played well in the first match and then collapsed a bit in the second, we didn’t quite play according to plan. But I’m happy with this third game, it’s always good to finish with a win.”
Meanwhile AS Lössi boss Stephane Drahusak admits his side couldn’t quite manage to step up to Champions League level. But he insists the New Caledonians will learn plenty from their first ever regional tournament.
“It’s been a good experience because it’s a change from the matches in Noumea, this is high level and you don’t have the right to make errors,” Drahusak said.
“We made three key errors and they capitalised on them. But it’s been a good experience and I hope that the players will leave here with some positive learnings that we can apply to the national championship.”
The group stages will come to a conclusion with Sunday’s action at Auckland’s QBE Stadium. In the opening game of the day the Solomon Warriors face Lae City Dwellers at 1pm before another top-of-the-table decider between defending champions Auckland City FC and 2014 finalists Amicale from 3.30pm.