A passionate and vocal crowd clapped and cheered on their heroes as Hienghene Sport players walked off the field at Stade Yoshida in Kone, after they edged past their Tahitian rivals AS Tefana in a typically hard-fought francophone derby to record two wins from two matches and secure their place in the final 16 of the OFC Champions League 2019 tournament.
In the earlier game on Match Day 2, Lae City Dwellers have ended Malampa Revivors’ qualification hopes with a 4-2 win that left their Vanuatu opponents languish at the bottom of Group A without a single point from their two outings.
A fresh breeze offered some relief to the players under the glorious Kone sky with Malampa adjusting to the conditions first to take an early lead courtesy of Elkington Molivakarua who gave no chance to Ronald Warisan, smashing home with his left foot after a lovely interplay with Edwin Bai inside the box in the 5th minute.
It was the perfect start for the Vanuatu hopefuls who needed to get something out of this match following their opening day defeat and despite mounting pressure from the resurgent Lae City Dwellers, Kaison Maki’s men have managed to keep their Papua New Guinean rivals at bay for most of the first half.
Like so often in the past, inspirational Lae City skipper Raymond Gunemba came to his side’s rescue just before the break with an astonishing five-minute spell that saw him grabbing a sensational hat-trick.
His first came in the 42nd minute as the Lae City number 7 expertly past the keeper to finish from an acute angle.
Malampa almost responded immediately with Edwin Bai hitting the left post before being punished for the near miss at the other end in the 43rd minute by the left foot of Gunemba who completed his hat-trick in added time with a beautifully taken lob over the keeper to give the Papua New Guineans a two goal lead in the break.
It was a demoralising end to the first half from Malampa’s point of you and things got worse for the team in blue after the restart as Gunemba beat two defenders before a perfectly executed cross to set up his strike partner Nigel Dabinyaba who tapped home in the 60th minute to put the resut beyond any doubt.
To their credit Malampa kept fighting and they pulled a goal back in the 82 minute through Andre Batick’s well executed header from a pinpoint cross delivered by Edwin Bai at the end of an sweeping counter attacking move.
It was little too late for Malampa whose 2019 Champions League hopes came to an end, while Lae City remain well and truly on track for a top two finish with four points from their two matches so far.
Disappointed Malampa coach Kaison Maki admitted his side lost to a better team on the day.
“We started really well but we had problems managing the game physically, and also the pressure they put us under we couldn’t hold them, we tried our best but couldn’t deal what they put us under especially in the first half,” he lamented.
His counterpart Peter Gunemba was satisfied with the result but still concerned with a few aspects of his players’ performance.
“Three points is what we deserve but I don’t like the way we started the game, that’s our biggest weakness, letting the other team score first and we have to chase the game to equalise and that’s not the best way to win a game.
“We talked about that after our first game but made the same mistake again today,” explained the Lae City coach.
Gunemba was also left frustrated with his players’ poor conversion rate in front of goal.
“We missed so many opportunities to score, my statistics tell me we should have scores 14 goals, but anyway that was God’s will and we’ll expect it as it is,” he added.
A lively and expectant crowd descended upon Stade Yoshida to support their high-flying local heroes Hienghene Sport facing their francophone foes AS Tefana from Tahiti in the latter kick off on Match Day 2.
Following a 5-nil win over Malampa in their opener, the hosts knew a win would guarantee their place in the quarter finals of Oceania’s premier club football competition, while the Tahitians who drew with Lae City on the opening day, were also desperate for the points in order to keep their qualification destiny in their own hands.
With a healthy rivalry between teams from New Caledonia and Tahiti, those expecting a hard-fought and passionate contest weren’t disappointed.
With emotions running high New Zealand referee Matthew Conger was forced to reach into his pocket nine times dishing out yellow cards to seven Hienghene and two Tefana players in order to keep a lid on proceedings.
Despite some physicality, the two sets of players produced an absorbing contest with only an early goal separating the sides which came in the fourth minute on the back of a strong run by Antoine Roine whose cross was turned into his own net by the unfortunate Raffi Krissian.
The hosts have dominated the midfield for the majority of the match and remained compact in defence thanks to the rock solid combination of Roy Kayara, William Yentao and Bruno Hyannem who reduced Tefana’s options to long range attempts which rarely troubled the keeper.
In the second half both sides created a number of opportunities but were lacking the finishing touch in the final third which was best characterised with near misses at both ends in a frantic end to the game.
When the referee blew his final whistle Hienghene players raised their arms in triumph to celebrate their qualification to the next phase of the competition, while the Tahitians were left to fight another day knowing they must win on the final match day and hope the result from the other game also goes their way.
Franck Mathieu in charge of Tefana said the loss was a bitter pill to swallow.
“Very disappointed because I think we’ve controlled the ball for most of the 90 minutes but we couldn’t make that count with our poor of finishing in front of goal.
“We hit the post several times and we created a lot of opportunity after we conceded a silly own goal, which turned the result against us,” said Mathieu.
We also lacked aggression in contrast to the Hienghene players who put us under a lot of pressure and managed to hold onto the result,” the Tefana coach added.
On the other hand, Hienghene Sport coach Felix Tagawa couldn’t have been happier with the outcome after his team became the first team to qualify for the last 16 in our region’s top club football competition.
“I’m really proud of my guys tonight, Tefana have played a lot of games this year, while we have played only two so this was a great result for my boys and our supporters.
“It was a hard game we knew we had to score early because if they had scored first we would have been in big trouble because their defense is really tough,” explained the triumphant coach.