Auckland City have secured a home quarter-final tie with a clean sweep in Group D of the OFC Champions League 2019 after a 6-0 win over hosts Solomon Warriors while AS Magenta gets the second qualifying spot with a 10-1 victory over Tupapa Maraerenga at Lawson Tama Stadium on Saturday in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
Knowing very well a win for either side would put three teams on six points, Auckland City and Solomon Warriors played a very competitive first 10 minutes.
The hosts had some encouraging moments in the visitors half despite having less of the ball in the opening exchanges.
Auckland City patient build-up from the back paid off on the 15th minute mark when David Browne sets up Dylan Manickum to slot past a helpless Phillip Mango.
Manickum completes his brace in the 26th minute as he turned home a rebound from Micah Lea’alafa initial effort on goal.
Three minutes later, David Browne flicks the ball over the Solomon Warriors keeper to tap into an empty net.
Conceding three goals in the opening 30 minutes, Solomon Warriors were chasing the game to leave so much space in their attacking third which Auckland City exposed to their advantage.
A well worked team move saw Fabrizo Tavano unleashed a beauty on the edge of the box to put the game out of Solomon Warriors’ grasp.
Auckland City were leading 4-0 at the break as both teams went back into the sheds.
The nine-time Oceania champions picked up where they left off to dominate their opponents in the second half.
The hosts closest to pull a goal back was a header from left back Robert Laua in the 51st minute which missed the up right.
Frustration got hold of the hosts as Emmanuel Poila, Haddis Aengari and Loea Mani were booked in the later stages of the game.
Auckland City coaching staff brought on three attacking players Omar Guardiola, Maro Bonsu-Maro and Reid Drake to bolster their attacking trio up front.
The changes were rewarded as Guardiola persistent earned a penalty on the stroke of full time.
Solomon Islands international Micah Lea’alafa stepped up to score against his former club sending compatriot Mango the wrong way.
All Whites defender Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi competes the rout with a brilliant free-kick in stoppage.
Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx was pleased with the overall result after another big win in the group.
“Happy, especially with the way we played, I think it was a very well played first half, dominated, very good football, lots of chances, four goals you can’t ask for more really,” he said.
“There is always a bit of pressure in the last game, you never know what’s going to happen they had to come back at least win the game and try to get some goals, so it’s sometimes difficult to manage the pressure in your head.
“I think we came out and we were fantastic from the minute number one and I’m really happy of the performance obviously.”
Ramon congratulates the hosts for a well organised tournament despite bowing out on home soil for the first time.
“At the moment we want to celebrate this, we want to thank the people from the Solomons.
“It has been a really well organised tournament, a very professional from the Solomon Warriors, especially I feel sorry for them because I involved with the Solomon Islands a couple years ago. Feel sorry having knocked them out but wish them all the best,” the Spaniard added.
Solomon Warriors coach Moses Toata confessed that the better side came out on top after 90 minutes of football.
“First of all I would like to thank and congratulates Auckland City for a very good game,” he said.
“It’s always hard to play against a team like Auckland City who have a bunch of professional players I would say and having come out from a very successful tour in Hong Kong.
“I think the result is something we will accept and Auckland City is the best club in Oceania. To add to our problems we had five boys who were sick this morning we went to the hospital and came back to play, it’s an unfortunate situation, but we could have done what we did in second half to try contain their pressure and reduced the score margin.
“You know it’s a show of two different classes. Auckland City have very good players, they played wonderful football and I think they deserved the win.”
AS Magenta did their part to qualify for the OFC Champions League 2019 quarterfinals by scoring as many goals as they could against Tupapa Maraerenga in a 10-1 effort.
They needed to put as much distance between them and the Solomon Warriors in case goals difference came into play, but in the end, it was not needed as Auckland City FC went on to beat the hosts 6-0.
Magenta played all of their subs as coach Alain Moizan had said leading up to the game, and they did not have much trouble in scoring, putting up six goals in the first half, and then completing the final tally with four more in the second.
“Today’s objective was to score a lot of goals and we managed the same as Warriors, a bit less than Auckland, and we had so many opportunities but to concentrate in a match like this can be hard,” said Moizan.
“The players think it will be very easy and in the final action in particular we were often missing a little something, but it was a good score, a good match and the Warriors will now play Auckland and in principle – although anything is possible – Auckland shouldn’t lose.”
But the goal of the game went to Tupapa Maraerenga, thanks to a perfectly timed header by Pekay Edwards. Tupapa won a direct kick five meters from the halfway line, with Ishaq Nazeem sending the ball all the way to the penalty box. Edwards leapt at the penalty mark area, and with Magenta’s Mickael Tiaou defending him closely, he headed the ball to the far post and found the back of the net for a great score during the 67th minute of the match. At this point it was 8-1.
“Our plan was for the players to keep up with the pace of the game, but all credit to the boys they came back in the second half, they got a goal, had a couple of chances at the end of the game which made the score line a bit more respectable,” explained Tupapa’s coach, Delaney Yaqona.
Leading up to this goal Tupapa had made a few forays into Magenta’s penalty box with Edwards coming close on a few opportunities. His persistence finally paid off as he never gave up chasing after the ball.
Yorick Hnautra was the catalyst for AS Magenta against Tupapa, scoring four goals total and completing his hat trick five minutes into the second half. Leon Wahnawe, Shene Welepane and second half substitute Kevin Nemia added a brace of goals each for the New Caledonia side.
Moizan bids farewell to the Solomon Islands with the tournament now over, but is happy with how his team performed. With him at the helm as a head coach, he said he has yet to lose to a team from the host country.
“I’m pleased to win here, as a coach either with the club or the national team – I’ve never lost against a Solomon Island team,” he pointed out. “It was a great victory against the Warriors and Tuesday, we’ll wait on the draw for the quarter finals.”
As for Tupapa Maraerenga, coach Yaqona wants his players to use this experience to make themselves better.
“It’s a good experience for the boys to see the pace of the game, not just the pace of the game at this level but playing against some of the best teams at this level of the competition,” Yaqona explained. “For the players they know what it’s like to compete at this level and if they want to come back, they know they’ve got to get themselves into much better shape in the future.”
Auckland City and AS Magenta will know their opponents next week when the official draw for the quarterfinals is officiated on March 5th in Auckland, New Zealand.
The quarterfinals will be held on the weekend of April 6th and 7th where the group winners play at home.