OFC Champions League bound clubs AS Tefana and AS Dragon faced off in the Tahiti Coupe des Champions 2016 with a 2-1 victory to Dragon earning them the first trophy of the 2016/17 season.
The Coupe des Champions pits the Ligue 1 champion, AS Tefana, against the side that took out the Coupe Tahiti Nui, AS Dragon, in an annual gala match that opens the coming season of football.
The 2016 OFC Champions League semi-finalists Tefana had three notable absences – Nicolas Vallard, Tunoa Tevaearai and Lorenzo Tehau who all received red cards in the final against Central.
Despite that, they were still considered the favourites.
They got off to a great start courtesy of the two Tehau brothers who were on the field, with Alvin sending a magnificent cross into for his brother Jonathan, who headed past the keeper at the far post in just the second minute of the match.
But their opponents weren’t going to let that slide by too easily and hit back less then five minutes later when Salomon Tevaupauhu took advantage of an error from Tefana keeper Mickael Roche, chipping him to bring his side back in line.
Coming back from the break for the second half, Tefana had a few chances to attack but constantly had to scurry back as Dragon hit back hard on the counter attack.
Steven Hiriga, the young Tefana goalkeeper, came in to replace Roche and was quickly put to work protecting the goal for yellow and greens.
With 15 minutes remaining in the match, Dragon finally found the advantage when Hiriga pushed a powerful shot from distance away, only for it to find the feet of Manarii Porlier who sent it flying into the back of the net.
Tefana gave it their best shot to pull themselves back into the match with a wonderful headed effort from Alvin Tehau testing the keeper but it wasn’t their night in the end.
Tefana coach Sebastien Labayen said it was an exciting, well-matched encounter between two good sides.
“We missed a bit in the first half,” he said.
“Coming out of the changing room we played better and above all, found our rythym and possession.
“After, it’s football and we lost tonight. But on the positive side, it shows the players what we created and put in place, it’s precious but also fragile at times. Every moment we need to remain concentrated and apply ourselves. That demands a lot of energy from everyone.”
From Dragon’s side, the joy of victory was evident especially from the point-of-view of match winning scorer Porlier.
“It was a very close match. We wanted to win this cup to start our season right and I’m proud of what we did here tonight,” he said.
“Our strategy was to press collectively and that required a lot of energy from everyone, but we worked hard on that in training and I have to congratulate all my teammates for that.”
The teams will now prepare for the launch of the new domestic season which gets underway in stadiums across the nation on Friday.
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