For three of the four Group D sides, tomorrow’s final OFC Champions League matches at Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara offer one last chance to make their quarterfinal dreams come true.
After a win and a draw each, Team Wellington and AS Magenta are sitting on four points, with Marist having only secured two points from two matches.
But with Match Day 3 bringing the table toppers together for a final showdown the stakes are high, especially with Marist facing Lupe Ole Soaga – a side both of the former beat relatively comfortably in their encounters.
Team Wellington and Magenta have never met this early in the OFC Champions League having instead faced off in the semi-finals of both the 2016 and 2017 editions. Team Wellington won both those encounter and will be keen to make it three in a row come Friday.
Against the hosts Marist on Saturday, Team Wellington looked like a side still coming to grips with the steamy nature of an afternoon clash at Lawson Tama. However by Tuesday against Lupe, the team looked to have finally acclimatised.
The New Zealand side’s Guernsey import Ross Allen finally found his scoring boots to net a hat-trick and put himself in the running for the Group Stage’s top scorer. With five different players getting on the scoreboard, Wellington showed their ability to score from anywhere on the park, which will be an aspect Magenta find difficult to manage.
“Marist has already shown us that they’re tough to play against and I’m sure Magenta will be the same against us in that last game,” Team Wellington coach Jose Figuiera said.
Magenta’s high pressing worked well against Marist as they put on a strong, much improved performance. However it’s a draining approach which didn’t work so well during their previous 1pm match and will need tight management from coach Alain Moizan.
What did work for Magenta was what they worked on in training. The wing-back overlap and cross was the most effective way of breaking down Marist’s defence, but despite having three of the domestic league’s top scorers in their midst, firepower up front has been lacking.
It’s that lack of finishing that has really frustrated Moizan over the course of his side’s two matches, especially the opener against Lupe Ole Soaga in which he expected a lot more from his strikers.
“It’s football and you need to be effective in front of the goal,” Moizan said.
“We’ll be playing our game as per usual – high pressing. They’re a team this year, which from what I’ve seen, is a little weaker than last year.
“We’ll do everything we can to win this match.”
For Lupe Ole Soaga the quarterfinals are once again out of reach, but the team’s pride won’t allow them to give up before the final match has played out.
This will make things difficult for Marist who not only need to win, but need to do it convincingly in order to keep themselves in reach of Magenta and Team Wellington.
Another draw would completely rule the hosts out of the quarterfinals. But a goal-heavy victory, and either a draw or loss for either Team Wellington or Magenta, means they will still be in with a chance.
For coach Jerry Allen that means great improvement is needed from his charges for the final encounter.
Marist have shown they’re capable of defending, and more than capable of terrorising the final third of their opponents’ half. However with a young strike force still developing their killer instinct Marist’s fate is very much in their own hands.
Veteran Abraham Iniga will be unavailable for the hosts after receiving two cautions against Magenta meaning the responsibility will fall to the younger members of the attack – Mathias Iani and Davidson Toma.
“We must try to score. We have lots of first timers in the team, the likes of Mathias Iani and Tome who are the two upfront. Hopefully they will step up for us in our last match.”
Meanwhile Lupe coach Paul Ualesi is hoping the final group game will reflect the experience gained over the past two match days.
“Three games are not easy for us, it’s all tough,” he said.
“The last one will be particularly hard because it’s the home crowd as well. It’s so hard for the boys but we just have to do our very best to compete.”
Team Wellington [NZL] vs. AS Magenta [NCL]
Lawson Tama Stadium
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Friday 2 March
Kick-off: 13h00 local (16h00 SAM / 15h00 NZL / 13h00 NCL)
Referee: Norbert HAUATA (TAH)
Assistant Referee 1: Folio MOEAKI (TGA)
Assistant Referee 2: Malaetala SALANOA (SAM)
Fourth Official: Robinson BANGA (VAN)
Vital Statistics: These two sides have met in the semi-finals of this competition for the past two editions and Team Wellington have never lost. The closest Magenta came was a 1-1 draw at home in the first-leg of the home-and-away semi-final in 2017. Team Wellington’s win on Tuesday was shy of their biggest margin – an 8-0 victory over Ba in 2017.
The Players: Guernsey-import Ross Allen found his comfort zone on Tuesday. Top scorer in his former league, Allen is ready to make his mark Down Under with Champions League goals.
Coach Quote: “We want to try and finish top.”
Team List: 1. Scott BASALAJ (GK), 2. Justin GULLEY, 3. Scott HILLIAR, 4. Mario ILICH, 5. Liam WOOD, 6. Taylor SCHRIJVERS, 7. Eric MOLLOY, 8. Tiahn MANUEL, 9. Tom JACKSON, 10. Nathanael HAILEMARIAM, 11. Mario BARCIA, 12. Andrew BEVIN, 13. Roy KAYARA, 14. Jack-Henry SINCLAIR, 15. Joel STEVENS, 16. Angus KILKOLLY, 19. Ross ALLEN, 20. Daniel MULHOLLAND, 21. Hamish WATSON, 22, Marcel KAMPMAN (GK), 23. Steve DIMAKIS (GK)
Coach: Jose FIGUEIRA [ENG]
Vital Statistics: Between them, Richard Sele and Emile Ounei scored 42 goals in last year’s Super Ligue in New Caledonia for their then clubs Lossi and Tiga. They are yet to show that hunger for goal in Honiara, but certainly have it within them.
The Players: Jean-Christ Wajoka’s overlapping runs were one of the biggest threats, and hardest tactic for Marist to contain. Wajoka can dribble the ball at great speed and is unafraid of a physical encounter.
Coach Quote: “If we win we’ll qualify and finish top of the group so we’ll do our best to recover over the two days, then we will see come Friday.”
Team List: 1. Steeve IXOEE (GK), 2. Jean-Christ WAJOKA, 3. Jean-Brice WADRIAKO, 4. Gregory TARAMOIN, 6. Iler HNAUK, 7. Renzo WEJIEME, 8. Yorick HNAUTRA, 9. Emile OUNEI, 10. Richard SELE, 11. Kevin NEMIA, 12. Benjamin BERNARD HERVE, 13. Cameron WADENGES, 14. Jean-Claude JEWINE, 15. Didier SIMANE, 16. Mickael ULILE (GK), 17. Wilsen POAMENO, 18. Bill NICHOLLS, 19. Joseph ATHALE, 20. Maraima TCHAO, 22. Henri WARAWANE, 23. Pierrot JELEWED, 29. Leon IXOEE (GK)
Suspended: 5. Mickael TIAOU
Coach: Alain MOIZAN [FRA]
Lupe Ole Soaga [SAM] vs. Marist FC [SOL]
Lawson Tama Stadium
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Friday 2 March
Kick-off: 16h00 local (16h00 NCL / 18h00 NZL / 19h00 SAM)
Referee: David YAREBOINEN (PNG)
Assistant Referee 1: Noah KUSUNAN (PNG)
Assistant Referee 2: Jeremy GARAE (VAN)
Fourth Official: Kader ZITOUNI (TAH)
Lupe Ole Soaga
The Players: Michael Fifi’i continues to put in the on-field efforts of a player half his age. His understanding of the game is strong meaning he’s able to direct his teammates well.
Coach Quote: “We’ll take this seriously. We knew all teams would be really tough, the last one especially.”
Team List: 1. Faalavelave MATAGI (GK), 2. Vaalii FAALOGO, 3. Spencer KELI, 4. Vito LALOATA, 5. Tauati TANOAI, 6. Michael FIFI’I, 7. Lawrie LETUTUSA, 8. Darren ALATINA TALILAI, 9. Samuelu MALO, 10. Lapalapa TONI, 11. Suivai ATAGA, 12. Kareti SOAGA, 13. Vaa TAUALAI, 14. Albert BELL, 15. Faafua ATAGA (GK), 16. Andrew SETEFANO, 17. Ken KEREWI, 18. Bird VAGAIA, 19. Cihan ERBIL, 20. Luki GOSCHE, 21. Kevin AH KUOI, 22. Eti FATU (GK), 23. Johnwesley TEO
Coach: Paul UALESI [SAM]
Vital Statistics: Marist’s future rests heavily on the results of the opening match between current group leaders Magenta and Team Wellington. However from their side they need to win by a minimum of three goals, without conceding any.
The Players: Weary of leaving his post vacant too often, defender Michael Boso has found himself venturing further up the field in this year’s OFC Champions League than he’s used to. This adventurous side to his game allowed him to score in the draw with Magenta and with that taste, he’s now hungry for more.
Coach Quote: “We’ll give them a good game and make sure we can get three points from it.”
Team List: 1. Anthony TALO (GK), 2. Joachim WAROI, 3. Michael BOSO, 4. John ROFETA, 5. Jeffery BULE, 6. Robert LAUA, 7. Atkin KAUA, 8. Henry FA’ARODO, 10. Timothy BAKALE, 11. Mathias IANI, 12. Zantas KABINI (GK), 13, Natanela BERO 14. Koriak UPAIGA, 16. John AETA, 18. Thomas AMASIA, 19. Joel PAKALIKI, 20. Davidson TOME, 21. Alvin RAY, 22. Harold NAUANIA, 23. Frederick DOLA, 24. Thomas TALOGA, 25. Joachim KAIRI (GK)
Suspended: 9. Abraham INIGA
Coach: Jerry ALLEN [SOL]