Photo Credit: Christophe Fotozz

AS Pirae are the final team to qualify for the OFC Men’s Champions League, following a dramatic victory over AS Tefana on penalties at Stade Pater in Tahiti.

Following a 1-1 draw earlier in the week, the two sides couldn’t be split after 90 minutes in the second leg, and while Tefana led during extra time, a very late equaliser from Ariiura Labaste sent the tie to penalty kicks, where Pirae prevailed inn sudden death.

AS Pirae showed more attacking intent early in the first half, with Sandro Tau causing trouble for Tefana with dribbling and a few dangerous efforts on goal.  

Tefana had a penalty shout after 15 minutes with Eddy Kaspard going down under a challenge in the area, but the referee duly waved play on.

As the half wore on, the teams were mostly limited to half-chances from outside the area, as both tried to threaten on the transition but lacked precision in their passing. 

Defences were on top as the half wore on, with both sides looking wary of letting the tie get away from them.

The tempo rose in the opening to the second period, with the crowd getting more into the game. Tefana goalkeeper Teave Teamotuaitau gave the ball away in a worrisome position, but defender Stéphane Faatiarau beat the Pirae attackers to the ball and cleared it from danger.  

As the half progressed, both sides stepped up their hunt for the opening goal with opportunities on goal coming more freely.  

Pirae thought they’d broken the deadlock in the 80th minute, as Tau directed the ball into an empty net after a collision between Yohann Tihoni and Teamotuaitau, but celebrations were cut short, after the referee adjudged a foul had been committed by Tihoni. 

The match came to life late on, with François Mu and Francois Hapipi narrowly missing for Tefana, while Heirauarii could have won it for Pirae but shot into Teamotuaitau’s arms. Pirae would enter extra time with a steep challenge, as influential midfielder Heimano Bourebare received a red card in added time for a second yellow card. 

After a frantic opening period of extra time saw both sides threaten, Tefana broke through in the 104th minute. Tehauarii Holozet picked out Kaspard with a pass through congested space, and the Tefana marksman delightfully dinked it over keeper Francois Decoret to put his team ahead. 

Pirae sought to commit numbers forward in the second half of extra time, with Tefana restricted to counterattacks. François Mu had the ball in the net for Tefana after a chipped shot, but the flag was up for a clear offside. 

Then from a free kick in the 121st minute, late drama arrived. After a good delivery, Ariiura Labaste managed to get a decisive touch on to direct the ball goalwards, and it beat the grasp of Teamotuaitau to bring Pirae level right at the very end.

In a tight penalty shootout, keeper Decoret proved the hero for Pirae, making two saves to deny Kaspard and Tearii Labaste, with Nick Tauotaha converting the crucial penalty to seal a 6-5 victory on penalties for his side.

AS Pirae will now take their place on home soil in Group B at the OFC Men’s Champions League in May.

AS Tefana: 1 (5) (Eddy KASPARD 104′)
AS Pirae: 1 (6) (Ariiura LABASTE 120+1′)

HT 0-0