Photo Credit: OFC Media via Fédération Calédonienne de Football

AS Magenta have confirmed qualification for the OFC Men’s Champions League after a 0-0 draw with ASC Gaïca in the second leg of New Caledonia’s National Playoff.

Following an even first half, the two-time OFC Men’s Champions League finalists spent the second half on the back foot and were reduced to ten men late on, but nonetheless held on to secure a 2-1 victory on aggregate.

After a tightly contested opening to the game, with an even midfield battle restraining efforts on goal, it was Magenta who had the first real chances just before the 20th minute.  

On swift breakaways, they passed their way through the Gaïca defence with the linkup play of Jimmy Watu, Hahnatadra Haewagene and Jean Christ Wajoka on show. However, twice Gaïca goalkeeper Rocky Nyikeine prevented the opener with impressive point blank saves. 

Magenta gained confidence from creating such good opportunities and began to dominate the game and defend their aggregate lead on the front foot, with Gaïca forced to defend deeper, limiting them to shots from distance.

As half-time approached, Gaïca began to show more attacking intent, running at the Magenta defence and almost getting Naulue Qaeze into shooting position before a brilliant slide tackle from Magenta defender Florian Gope.  

With the teams goalless at the interval, Magenta were doggedly holding on to their 2-1 aggregate lead from the first leg.

Despite Magenta being in the ascendancy early in the second half, Neville Wahiobe thought he might have won a penalty for Gaïca on a rare attack, however the officials adjudged no foul to have made been and the appeals were waved away.

Fonzy Ranchain troubled Magenta with a dangerous free kick in a good position, with keeper Mickael Ulile having to make a strong save to his right. From a bouncing corner, Ranchain also attempted an acrobatic scissor kick, but his effort flew over the bar.  

As the half wore on, Magenta’s approach was becoming one of defending steadfast and relying on counterattacks through Haewegene to threaten at the other end. Wahiobe continued to be a major threat for Gaïca, now piling on the pressure against a Magenta defence struggling to contain them. 

With the game into the last ten minutes of regulation time, the crowd thought a Ranchain header was going in for the crucial goal Gaïca needed, but the ball flashed agonisingly wide.

Jean-Marie Hmaloko almost put it beyond Gaïcas’ reach on the counterattack, but Nyikeine superbly saved his shot and then the follow up. 

With the minutes ticking down, Magenta were then reduced to ten men. After a poorly executed sliding challenge, Cyril Drawalo received a second yellow card, leaving his side having to hold on for the remainder of the half.

Gaïca continued to flood numbers forward and create opportunities but couldn’t find the back of the net before the full time whistle came.  

Magenta will join Vaivase-Tai FC of Samoa and the National Playoff winners from Vanuatu and Tahiti in Group B of the OFC Men’s Champions League 2024 in Tahiti in May.

AS Magenta: 0 (2)
ASC Gaïca:
 0 (1)

HT 0-0

Ifira Black Bird have held off a strong second half from Classic FC to take a one goal lead after the first leg of their OFC Men’s Champions League National Playoff in Vanuatu.

In front of a passionate crowd at Luganville Soccer City Stadium, home side Classic FC found themselves two goals down at the break but came out fighting in the second half, scoring early on to give themselves a chance in the return fixture.

While both sides had opportunities in the opening period, visitors Ifira Black Bird took the lead in the 28th minute, Tonly Kalotang calmly hitting the back of the net from close range. The home side’s best chance came in the 38th minute, denied an equaliser by Ifira Black Bird goalkeeper Antonie Taiwia, who did well to produce a double save to preserve his side’s lead. Taiwia followed that up with another save late on in the half.

In the second minute of added time, Ifira’s John Wohole scored a crucial second. Making a lovely run into the area and slotting the ball home to make it 2-0 at the break.

Classic FC came out firing in the second half, with a change in pace and energy noticeable. Less than five minutes into the second period, they pulled themselves back into the tie. Betthuel Ollie latching on to a great through ball and driving the ball beyond the grasp of Taiwia to reduce the gap to one.

The home side created more chances as the second period wore on and were unfortunate not to bring the game level, hitting both the post and the crossbar in quick succession.

Tempers threatened to boil over towards the end, as the intensity continued to rise. Ifira Black Bird’s Alphonse Lency receiving his marching orders after a second yellow card in the final minute of regulations time. His team however were able to hold on for the remainder of stoppage time to secure a crucial first leg advantage.

All eyes now turn to the second leg in Port Vila on February 28.

Classic FC: 1 (Betthuel OLLIE 49′)
Ifira Black Bird FC: 2 (Tonly KALOTANG 28′, John WOHALE 47′)

HT: 0-2