With two victories and the six points that came with them, home side AS Tefana are looking good to qualify for their second OFC Champions League semi-final in a row.
However with a match against rising Solomon Islands powerhouse Marist in their final Group D match, the race to claim that berth in the semi-finals alongside Team Wellington and AS Magenta is far from over.
For his part, Marist coach Juliano Schmeling believes if his side can pick themselves up following their loss to Erakor Golden Star, then anything could happen on the day.
“It’s definitely not easy with the way we lost our second match, but Friday will be a big day because at least three teams are still in the running.”
Schmeling believes the overall performances from Marist thus far have been what he wanted, with the exception of several lapses which resulted in goals for their opponents.
“In the last few minutes of the match another mistake from us and it ended 2-1,” he says of their second game against the Vanuatu side.
“In a competition like this every mistake you make can cost you three points.”
AS Tefana showed their might on Tuesday night with a resolute performance against Rewa and even in the final ten minutes with a man down, they remained the stronger looking side.
“Ironically we played better with 10 players than 11,” coach Sébastien Labayan said.
“I know the players are capable of performing even better than we have so far. I still think this pool is one of the most equal of the four and each of the teams has it’s strengths – Marist is no different.”
Keeping their on-field structure has been at the base of Tefana’s success so far although the loss of work-horse Heimano Bourebare will be keenly felt through the centre.
But with qualification in sight there is no doubt his teammates have the drive to step up in his absence to ensure he can continue on the journey with them in the semi-final.
In the earlier match Rewa, still chasing their first points in Tahiti, will take on Erakor Golden Star, a side high on their late victory over Marist.
Rewa coach Marika Rodu said for first-timers in the OFC Champions League his side has done a reasonable job.
“This is the first time we have been exposed to his level of competition,” he explains.
“I think playing three top teams in our pool gives our boys different opportunities and a different view of what football is so we will be going hard in the last game.
“For us now, we’re focusing less on the results but on improving our performances with every match.”
After their win over Marist, the belief in the Erakor Golden Star camp has swelled with the players confidence returning.
Although a long shot for qualification, they are keen to continue to represent their country and village with pride so a win in their final match is definitely the objective.
“We’re looking forward to the last game against Rewa,” coach Etienne Mermer said.
“We have a chance – not much – but it depends on the result between Marist and Tefana as well. And even then, Marist has a much better chance than Erakor Golden Star.”
Captain Brian Kaltack will return to the fold to bolster the ranks for the team’s final match, after serving his suspension, but they will be without his cousin Michell who accumulated two yellow cards in the first two matches.
Rewa vs. Erakor Golden Star
Friday 17 March
Rewa FC [FIJ]
Vital Statistics: Rewa are yet to earn their first points at the OFC Champions League after losses in their first two matches.
The Players: Madhwan Gounder has been using speed and skill to cause problems for the defence across the past two matches for Rewa. If he can get a bit more support on attack he could be even more lethal.
Coach Quote: “It’s the last game and anything can happen. There’ll be tired bodies, tired legs and if the team stays focused we have the capability to go to the final minute so we will see if we can’t come out with an even stronger team for the last game.”
Rewa FC: 1. Simione TAMANISAU (GK), 2. Peniame DROVA, 3. Lorima DAU, 4. Josaketi TAMUDU, 5. Mitieli NAMUKA, 7. Usaia TADAU, 8. Marcelo TANNUS, 9. Iosefo VEREVOU, 10. Savenaca NAKALEVU, 11. Madhwan GOUNDER, 12. Tevita WARANAIVALU, 13. Kohei MATSUMOTO, 14. Epeli SAUKURU, 15. Elias SILVA, 16. Amani MAKOE, 17. Koalasito POSIANO, 18. Taione KEREVANUA, 19. Vuniuni TIKOMAIMEREKE, 20. Samuela KAUTOGA, 21. Manasa WAQAVOU (GK)
Suspended: 6. Diego GALVAO
Coach: Marika RODU (FIJ)
Erakor Golden Star [VAN]
Vital Statistics: Tony Kaltack has scored four goals in two games to put himself alongside the top scorers in the competition so far.
The Players: Jason Thomas and Chikau Mansale combined well at the back to keep Marist’s skilled attack at bay. The return of Brian Kaltack will be welcomed by the pair as they hope to keep a clean sheet against Rewa.
Coach Quote: “I think Rewa will look forward to win one game too. Everyone has to give their best until the end of the tournament.”
Erakor Golden Star: 1. Serge DANIEL (GK), 2. Brian KALTACK, 4. Jacques WANEMUT, 5. Jason THOMAS, 6. Jesse KALOPONG, 7. Robert TOUKOUNE, 8. Kaltfer KALTACK, 9. Anderson TAKAU, 10. Kalserei ARSEN, 11. Nemani ROQARA, 12. Gershom KALSONG, 13. Lucien HINGE, 14. Jean KALTACK, 15. Tonly KALOTANG, 16. Bernard DANIEL, 17. Jacky RUBEN, 18. Barry MANSALE, 19. Tony KALTACK, 20. Johnny KALORUS, 22. Chikau MANSALE (GK)
Suspended: 3. Michell KALTACK
Coach: Etienne MERMER (VAN)
AS Tefana vs. Marist FC
Friday 17 March
AS Tefana [TAH]
Vital Statistics: Tefana have featured in two OFC Champions League semi-finals previously, and one final.
The Players: Stevens Hiriga made an outstanding return to the OFC Champions League in Match 2 of Group D. His efforts between the posts meant his side kept a deserved clean sheet against Rewa.
Coach Quote: “I know that Friday is going to be incredibly difficult. We need to take it seriously and be even better performance wise than in our previous match.”
AS Tefana: 1. Stevens HIRIGA (GK), 2. Farearii TUTEINA, 3. Taumihau TIATIA, 4. Tehevarii LUDIVON, 5. Viritua TIAIHO, 6. Tunoa TEVAERAI, 7. Temarii TINORUA, 8. Jess HOROI, 9. Tehina TEMORERE, 10. Tautua LUCAS, 11. Sylvain GRAGLIA, 12. Alvin TEHAU, 13. Stanley ATANI, 14. Jonathan TEHAU, 15. Jean Claude CHANG KOEI CHANG, 16. Manutea TAAE, 18. Kaena ONUU, 22. Nicolas VALLAR, 23. Moana PITO (GK), 25. Toriki GUYOT, 30. Lorenzo TEHAU
Suspended: 19. Heimano BOUREBARE
Coach: Sébastien LABAYEN (TAH)
Marist FC [SOL]
Vital Statistics: A win and a loss means Marist need to beat Tefana by at least two unanswered goals to keep their semi-final dream alive, but they’ll also need to keep an eye on the earlier result if they want to keep Erakor Golden Star out of contention too.
The Players: Atkin Kaua’s left foot is impressive especially when combined with his speed and quality up the left flank. If Guilherme Guedes and Timothy Bakale can connect more regularly with the crosses Kaua delivers, Marist can improve their goal scoring record/
Coach Quote: “It’s still open. Friday will be a big day for all four teams because almost any of them can still qualify.”
Marist FC: 1. Phillip MANGO (GK), 2. James EGETA, 3. Michael BOSO, 4. Andre MOROSINI, 5. Jeffery BULE, 6. Koriak UPAIGA, 7. Atkin KAUA, 8. Timothy BAKALE, 9. Guilherme GUEDES, 10. Rueben DOUGLAS, 11. Abraham INIGA, 12. Zantas KABINI (GK), 13. Robert LAUA, 14. Martin SALEIMANU, 17. Djair VEIGA, 20. Joel PAKA, 23. Thomas TALOGA
Coach: Juliano SCHMELING (BRA)