Auckland City FC just scraped through to claim three points with a 2-1 win against Western United, while Lae City Dwellers opened Group C action and claimed their first ever OFC Champions League victory with their 5-2 win against Malampa Revivors at Mangere Centre Park in Auckland today.
Western United had the Aucklanders on the bckfoot when they opened the scoring against the defending champions when James Naka connected with a free kick from Henry Fa’arodo and found the back of the net, and although Auckland City dominated possession, they failed to equalise for the remainder of the half.
Darren White was behind the awaited equaliser for Auckland City when a free kick from Emiliano Tade lobbed into the area headed into the top of the net by the striker. Tade got his own name on the score sheet in the last minutes of the game when he was tbrought down in the box. The second half substitute sent goalkeeper Anthony Talo the wrong way from the spot to give Auckland City the lead for the first time in the match in the 86th minute.
Despite conceding two late goals, Talo held out the Auckland City attack well and kept his side in the match for the majority of the game, saving multiple attempts at goal from White, Clayton Lewis and Joao Moreira during the first 75 minutes of the match.
Relieved with the win after a very tense 90 minutes, Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx was pleased with the commitment shown by his side fighting their way back from a 1-0 deficit.
“The performance wasn’t bad. It wasn’t one of our best of course, we didn’t start very well and in the first 10 or 15 we looked a bit nervous, but after that I think we dominated,” he said.
“We had four or five chances in front of the keeper and we didn’t score. It seems like that’s the story this year, we keeping missing those chances.
“In the end, with a bit of desire rather than football, we did it again. We’re happy with that comeback, very happy with the mentality of the players, especially in that last 15 or 20 when we were chasing that winner which in the end we achieved.”
Although Western United coach Commins Menapi was disappointed to lose their lead in the last minutes, the impressive performance displayed by his side against the competition favourites has given Menapi high confidence for the remainder of their Group C matches.
“Honestly, I was very happy with the way we played today, especially with the game’s organisation and the way we used the ball against Auckland City in the first half,” he said.
“The boys did really well, they found it hard to come and pick up on us.
“I’m just disappointed with the result, we gave it away in those last few minutes.”
Lae City Dwellers’ 5-2 win over Malampa Revivors earlier in the day saw a more one-sided match with one side scoring all the first half goals, even though one was in their own net.
Raymond Gunemba opened Lae’s scoring streak when he received a through ball past Malampa Revivors goalkeeper Naruel Maliu, who had sprinted out of the box to win the ball. Gunemba ran forward to receive the ball between Maliu and the open goal and placed it in the back of the net in the eighth minute of the game.
Malampa held the dominating Papua New Guinean side out until the 37th minute when Peter Dabinyaba Jnr charged past Ismael Sam out wide and fired the ball into the back of the net to make it two for Lae City Dwellers.
Goalkeeper Ronald Warisan tightened the scoring margin just before the half-time whistle when a corner kick from John Alick slipped through the legs of Raymond Gunemba catching Warisan off-guard which caused him to knock the ball into his own goal.
The own goal was redeemed early in the second half when New Zealand youth international George Debenham got a toe to a cross from Raymond Gunemba to tap the ball in at back post and Obert Bika followed up only two minutes later when Debenham sent in a dangerous cross for the attacker to fire past Maliu.
The final goal of the day gave Malampa Revivors a moment of celebration in the tough 90 minutes, with Edwin Bai bringing their tally up to two by tapping in a miscued Dwellers’ clearance.
Lae City Dwellers coach Peter Gunemba was ecstatic to win their first match of the competition, especially after going home with three losses in last year’s OFC Champions League, but he knows there is still a lot of room for improvement.
“This is the first win for us after coming here last year and not winning a game,” he said.
“We should have scored more than two goals in the first half but in the second half I talked to them and told them to settle down and they started to play like we have been training.
“I think we did well in this match but we will have to correct our mistakes over the next three days.”
Disappointed about conceding five goals, Malampa Revivors coach Steven Varegali is keeping his head high after a passionate battle and a proud performance in their OFC Champions League debut.
“I’m really happy because this is our first time and we have learned many things,” he said.
“We found out we are the same level as them, the only thing was our keeper made some mistakes and that’s why there was a big score margin.”
Malampa Revivors and Western United will both battle for their first three points when they play at 1pm on the second day of Group C action at Mangere Centre Park on 15 March. Auckland City FC and Lae City Dwellers will then battle for the top-of-the-table at 4pm.