(Photo: AS Pirae Coach, Hiro Labaste. Credit: OFC Media via Phototek).
Coach Jean Robert Yelou is promising his young Ifira Black Bird side will have a real crack against defending champions Auckland City FC in Wednesday’s first OFC Champions League semi-final in Port Vila.
Ifira’s 1-0 win over New Caledonia’s Tiga Sport in the final Group B match sent the nearly 6000 strong crowd into raptures.
Yelou is thrilled with his side’s performance.
“We still have a big job to do and we need to rest well and recover for Auckland City. It’s a good challenge and experience for us and we will give everything especially in front of our own crowd,” Yelou said.
His Tiga Sport counterpart Leo Lopez felt the early goal they conceded forced them to change their game plan.
“We had to be more expansive to try to score but Ifira are a very big team with a big soul and aggressive players and they were wonderful in front of their public and we hope they can go all the way,” Lopez said.
Despite being down to 14 fit players at his disposal, AS Pirae coach Hiro Labaste was in an upbeat mood after his side’s 2-1 win over Hekari United which clinched top spot in Group B.
The Tahitian champions won two of their three matches and drew the other against Ifira Black Bird to set up a semi-final on Wednesday (3pm local time) against Group B runners up Suva FC.
“All the teams have a strong level so to win this game puts us in a good place for the semi-final,” Labaste remarked.
“We have 14 players but have experience and we can win the semi-final and then win the final and take the trophy back home, but Suva will be another tough test,” Labaste added.
Hekari United coach Erickson Komeng was naturally disappointed with the result but is sure the experience will put his team in good stead.
“We competed really hard, and the boys gave their best in the tournament,” Komeng said.
“Today we didn’t complete enough passes, but we will take positives out of the tournament and hopefully come back a better team.”
Komeng now heads home to Port Moresby to prepare his Hekari United women’s team for the inaugural OFC Women’s Champions League, taking place in Papua New Guinea from June 1-10.