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Auckland City top Group D

Auckland City's Cameron Howieson meets Lupe goalkeeper Zane Green during their Champions League clash in Tahiti. Photo Credit: OFC/Massimo Colombini

Auckland City FC and AS Venus have emerged from Group D as the quarter-finalists in the OFC Champions League 2020.

Auckland City, nine-time Oceania club champions, beat Lupe Ole Soaga SC 2-0 during their final game in Tahiti on Saturday night (TAH time) to ensure they finished at the top of the pool, before home side AS Venus beat Ba FC 4-2 to secure second place in the group.

Auckland City 2-0 Lupe Ole Soaga SC

The Navy Blues delivered another clinical performance at Stade Mahina and kept their third-straight clean sheet of the campaign in their win over Lupe.

Auckland City went through pool play unbeaten and coach Jose Figueira took the chance to use different members of his squad in this match.

Defender Adam Mitchell got his first start of the tournament and a first-half goal to Brian Kaltack ensured Auckland took a slender lead to the break.

Striker Dylan Manickum doubled the margin with a great strike from the edge of the box mid-way through the second spell that locked up the win and the all-important home advantage for the quarter-finals, which are due to be played on the weekend of April 4-5.

“We are happy first and foremost to have the quarter-final for sure at home,” Figueira said.

“The players have been fantastic and the objective is to always finish top but to do it the way that we did with the goal differential and the clean sheets is always really pleasing.”

Cameron Howieson captained Auckland City as regular skipper Angel Berlanga sat on the bench; Howieson had a strong game in the midfield, while Logan Rogerson was busy up front.

Auckland were rarely troubled through their group fixtures and loom as a challenging opponent during the knockout stages. The draw for the quarter-finals is expected to take place in the coming week.

Lupe coach Paul Ualesi said despite the loss to Auckland City, the tournament had been a success from their perspective given they beat Ba 4-3 in their second outing.

“I’m still proud of my boys about the performance and the effort they put in for this game,” he said.

Lupe, who earned their spot in Group D after winning the Qualifying Stage tournament in Auckland in January, didn’t look out of place in Tahiti and Ualesi said their positive showing would serve as a great inspiration for Samoan football.

AS Venus 4-2 Ba FC

Tahitian club Venus ensured they didn’t rely on any mathematical equations to advance to the next round of the Champions League as they came from 2-0 down to beat Ba.

Fiji’s Ba needed a big win to force their way through to the knockout stages and it looked like it might be on the cards as they went ahead through goals to Samuela Drudru and Benjamin Totori within the first 10 minutes.

But once Venus finally got into the game they slowly took control as Tahitian international Teaonui Tehau grabbed two first-half goals, while Kevin Barbe also scored in the first spell.

With a 3-2 lead at the break, Tehau completed his hat-trick early in the second stanza, meaning Venus would move on to the quarter-finals as Ba finished the game with nine players due to some ill-discipline.

Tehau was the top-scorer in Group D with four goals and was a constant threat for his opponents due to his pace and skill on the ball.

Venus coach Sam Garcia said he never doubted his team, despite them going behind early on.

“We weren’t concentrating but for the spirit of the team I have no problems, this is a team with a marvellous spirit and that’s why they won,” he said.

Venus will be without goalkeeper Teave Teamotuaitau and defender Marama Amau for their quarter-final after they both picked up their second yellow cards of the group, earning a one-match suspension.

Venus last played in the Champions League two years ago and Garcia said getting through to the next round was a big moment for their club.

“It means we’ve made progress because in 2018 we didn’t make it out of the group. But we knew we’d made progress because we had a great season last year. It’s also been good for us to measure ourselves against the teams of the Pacific so we’re hugely satisfied and all of that is thanks to the players.”

Ba coach Ricki Herbert said he was pleased that his side showed plenty of intent and felt they gave a good account of themselves.

“Every time you get a chance in international football, you’ve got to step up and you’ve got to be competitive and I think we saw a little bit [of a] different type of Ba team tonight and I think for the club and the staff and players moving forward, I think that will stand them in good stead,” he said.

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