Group D winners Auckland City FC will host Group A runners-up Lae City Dwellers from Papua New Guinea to kick off the 2019 OFC Champions League quarter-finals at Auckland’s Kiwitea Street on Saturday afternoon.
These two sides have met twice previously at the region’s premier club football competition with the Navy Blues earning a 2-0 and a 2-1 victory.
Ramon Tribulietx’s men will again be favourites, especially on their home ground, but the Auckland City coach is wary of a Papua New Guinean side spoiled for attacking options.
“We’ve played them a few times and it’s one of those teams that is capable of anything because they have quality, especially in the frontline with (Nigel) Dabinyaba and (Raymond) Gunemba.
“They can beat you one on one or beat two players, they are quality in transition and in any random situation they can create stuff and score goals and that’s how they hurt teams,” Tribulietx explained.
“They are also really fit in the middle of the park, a team that can keep running forever and I think they have all the ingredients there to be really dangerous for us, so we must respect the fact that it’s a one-off game and anything can happen,” added the Navy Blues coach.
His Lae City counterpart Peter Gunemba also warned against reading too much into their previous two meetings.
“We lost to them 2-0 and 2-1 but you don’t expect things to be the same all the time, and whether we have improved or they are better than us this time, we don’t know.
“I told the boys to give everything because it’s only one game and we do or die, we will be underdogs but we know how to play football and we will be giving our best,” he insisted.
Gunemba admits his side needed a major overhaul in their defence which threatened to derail their Champions League campaign during the group stage at Stade Yoshida in Kone, New Caledonia.
But the Lae coach believes his players have finally turned the corner and will be competitive against the nine-time champions.
“Since the group stage we have been working hard on our defence because just like in New Caledonia we faced the same defensive problems in our local competition in the National Soccer League, but in the last two matches we’ve played against the top two Papua New Guinea teams and we haven’t conceded a single goal,” he said.
“Before we went to New Caledonia we didn’t have much game time, no lead up matches, but the boys did very, very well but now we have played more than eight games and the boys are feeling good, they are match fit and in a high level competition such as this they rise to the occasion, so Auckland City will need to rise to our challenge too,” Gunemba added.
Ramon Tribulietx is not taking anything for granted and he says the most important thing for his players is to focus on themselves.
“We must control the game, we must control possession, but that’s in our DNA and that’s how we want to play the game, but we are preparing for a close battle because I’m pretty sure it’s going to be tough.
“The Oceania Champions League for us is the number one priority, it has given us the opportunity to compete at the FIFA Club World Cup and to spread our brand internationally and we want to make sure that we give ourselves the best opportunity to get back again onto that stage,” the Auckland City coach added.
“This is the moment of the season where we wanted to be, to have a quarter final at home and hopefully we can compete well on Saturday,” insisted Tribulietx.
Riding a huge wave of support from home, Peter Gunemba is confident his charges will be competitive and will do everything they can to upset the hosts.
“We will not hold back anything, there is a lot of support back at home, we have about 200-thousand football players in our country and they are all behind in an international match such as this so we will be playing for all the supporters back home,” promised the Lae City coach.
OFC Champions League 2019 – Quarter Final
Auckland City FC [AUC] vs. Lae City Dwellers [LAE]
Freyburg Field, Kiwitea Street
Auckland, New Zealand – Saturday 6 April
Kick-off: 14:00 local
For Live Stream click on link
Referee: Mederic LACOUR (NCL)
Assistant Referee 1: Bertrand BRIAL (NCL)
Assistant Referee 2: Jeremy GARAE (VAN)
Fourth Official: Joel HOPKEN (VAN)
AUCKLAND CITY FC
Team List: 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 2. Darren WHITE, 5. Angel BERLANGA, 7. Cameron HOWIESO, 8. Sitiveni CAVUILAGI, 6. Simione NABENU, 7. Ratu DAU, 8. Albert RIERA, 10. Micah LEA’ALAFA, 11. Fabrizio TAVANO, 12. Dylan MANICKUM, 14. Jordan VALE, 15. Daniel MORGAN, 16. Yousif ALI, 18. Ruben PARKER (GK), 19. David BROWNE, 20. Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 21. Maro BONSU-MARO, 22. Omar GUARDIOLA, 23. Alfie ROGERS
Coach : Ramon TRIBULIETX (NZL)
LAE CITY DWELLERS
Team List: 1. Matheson NASA (GK), 2. Matheson NAS, 3. Federico DIAZ, 4. Goropaul ALBERT, 5. Japhet TIAMPO, 6. Troy GUNEMBA, 7. Raymond GUNEMBA, 8. Jacob SABUA, 9. Nigel DABINYABA, 12. Peter DABINYABA JR., 13. Clement WILLIS, 14. Emmanuel SIMON, 15. Billson BULLO, 17. Michael FOSTE, 18. Emmanuel AIREM, 20. Ronald WARISAN (GK), 21. Joshua TALAU, 22. Ernest GWAITEP
Coach: PETER GUNEMBA (PNG)