Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek

Auckland United have made history by winning their first ever OFC Women’s Champions League, following a narrow 1-0 victory over Hekari United in the final in Honiara.

Bree Johnson’s strike after 25 minutes was the difference maker, as the New Zealand side held on to ensure they return home with their hands on the trophy.

The two sides looked to impose themselves on one another early on. Hekari United keen to go one better than last year when they finished runners-up to AS Academy Féminine, Auckland United vying to become the first ever New Zealand winners.

United had an early chance gifted to them through a failed clearance in the fourth minute, rebounding off Bree Johnson’s shins, with Rene Wasi the fastest to react to the loose ball, but no one could take advantage of her low ball across the six yard box.

Just before the half hour mark and Auckland United found what would prove to be the decisive breakthrough.

Rene Wasi’s cross from deep ricocheted innto the path of Johnson and the forward’s pace allowed her to nick the ball past the onrushing Fidelma Watpore, allowing a comfortable side-footed finish into the unguarded net.

Down by one but certainly not out, Hekari United came close to an equaliser through a sustained period of pressure.

Initiated by captain Marie Kaipu just after the cooling break, the Papua New Guinea international striker was closed down quickly by an attentive Auckland defence packing out the box, and her teammates were unable to find a way though. 

Moments later, the Papua New Guinea champions came close again, with Phylis Pala’s looping cross batted away by Amberley Hollis, all too aware of the lurking Kaipu. The resultant corner struck the upright, causing chaos in the box but Auckland were able to eventually clear their lines and survive.

The Kiwi champions thought they had a second through the combination of Johnson and Wasi again, with the latter winning possession in midfield and taking off down the right flank. Her inch-perfect ball was latched onto by Johnson, who was flagged offside in a close call. 

Talisha Green kept Michaelyne Butubu quiet to the extent that Hekari’s mercurial forward switched to wingback in the second half to escape her attention, with second-half substitute Nenny Elipas replacing her up front.

Despite the early flurry from Hekari, Auckland United began to assert control over the game, again with their youngsters at the heart of things. Influentiall substitute Pia Vlok was a constant threat – picking the ball up in the middle of the park and releasing Alexis Cook who subsequently played in Danielle Canham, though the midfielder’s volley was hit right at Watpore.

The minutes ticking down, Auckland United were excellent in their ability to manage the game and held off Hekari United strongly, limiting the threat on Hollis’ goal. 

Jubilation at the final whistle for the Kiwi side, as they make history as the first side from New Zealand to win the OFC Women’s Champions League.

Hekari United: 0
Auckland United:
1 (Bree JOHNSON 25′)

HT: 1-0