With three teams still in the semi-final race, it could all come down to the last match between Auckland City and Malampa Revivors after Lae City Dwellers play Western United in the last day of action for Group C in the OFC Champions League at Mangere Centre Park on Saturday (local time).
Although their only hopes of progressing relies on Malampa Revivors defeating Auckland City in their 4pm fixture, both Western United and Lae City Dwellers will be determined to secure three points and score at least three goals when they play at 1pm, just in case the Vanuatu new-comers manage to take down the long-time regional heavyweights.
Lae City Dwellers coach Peter Gunemba isn’t holding his breath about the latter Group C fixture but believes the performance of his side in their past two games proved them worthy contenders in the competition and is feeling confident about collecting the three points on Saturday.
“Looking at it, I thought the boys could win this tournament but being put in the same group as Auckland City was going to make it hard,” he said.
“The first two games we were a bit rusty because we were not well-prepared but in the last game against Western we will try to play much better to at least win two games.
“The approach won’t be different, we will play the same game we’ve been playing.”
Western United coach Commins Menapi is also feeling confident ahead of their clash against Lae City Dwellers, but believes that team still has plenty of room for improvement if they want to dominate in their final group match.
“Looking at our last game, we missed a lot of chances, so we’ve gone back to the training field to work on that,” he said.
“It’s the last game and we’re going to go out there and give our best. I want to win our last game.”
Malampa Revivors are in full focus ahead of their final match against seven-time champions Auckland City FC and although their bid for the semi-final spot ended after their second loss on Wednesday, assistant coach Steven Ham is looking forward to seeing his team go shoulder-to-shoulder against some of the best players in the region.
“We are really happy to be able to play a match against our champion club and we will enjoy our game when we play Auckland City,” he said.
“We have prepared hard and I know we will put in a good game. We will try our best to have a good finish.”
Despite their comfortable three point lead on the table, Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx is not taking any chances as they prepare for another tough battle against Malampa Revivors.
“It’s another team that can do the unexpected,” he said.
“The way they play individually is very skilful and very quick, similar to Lae City, so we understand how tough it is to play these teams. They can do things out of the blue and they can hurt you because they’ve got that individual skill.
“We need to make sure that we are tuned up for the game. It’s going to be another difficult battle against a team that’s going to run and run and run with a lot of intensity. We need to make sure we’re up for it.”
Lae City Dwellers vs Western United
Mangere Centre Park
Auckland, New Zealand
Saturday 18 March
Lae City Dwellers (PNG)
Vital Statistics: Lae City Dwellers have proved a worthy contender in their second ever OFC Champions League campaign, dominating Malampa Revivors 5-2 in their first match and holding out Auckland City FC to a 1-0 result at half-time in their previous match, conceding through a set piece.
The Players: Papua New Guinea national team player Obert Bika showcased his dangerous attacking skills in Lae City Dweller’s previous match against Auckland City, forcing saves from goalkeeper Enaut Zubikarai several times throughout the 90 minutes. The striker nearly found the goal in the 13th minute of the game, threatening the early lead for Lae City Dwellers, but the Auckland City backline jumped in to block just in time.
Coach Quote: “The first two games we were a bit rusty because we were not well-prepared but in the last game we will try to play much better to at least win two games. That is good enough for us.”
Lae City Dwellers: 1. Ronald WARISAN (GK), 2. Kenneth PILAILO, 3. Valentine NELSON, 4. Goropaul ALBERT, 5. Mosie MILUBWA, 7. Raymond GUNEMBA, 8. Alex KAMEN, 9. George KOREI, 10. Obert BIKA, 11. Adolf NAIDU, 12. Matthew DAVID, 13. John KICHANI, 14. Emmanuel SIMON, 15. Ken KEPE, 16. Japhet TIAMPO, 17. Billson BULLO, 18. Peter DABINYABA JNR, 19. Moses KAMAKENG, 20. Matheson NASA (GK), 21. Kiwa TEPO, 22. George DEBENHAM.
Suspensions: 6. Troy GUNEMBA.
Coach: Peter Gunemba (PNG)
Western United (SOL)
Vital Statistics: Sitting on points equal to their upcoming opponent, a win for Western United would send them past Lae City Dwellers and level with Auckland City, leaving semi-final qualification down to goal difference for Group C if Auckland City lose the second match of the day.
The Players: Goalkeeper Anthony Talo played a pivotal role in Western United’s previous matches against Malampa Revivors and Auckland City, saving multiple attempts throughout both matches to keep his team in the competition. The 20-year-old has displayed incredible versatility throughout his four-year football career, representing Solomon Islands in goal and on the field in football, beach soccer and futsal.
Coach Quote: “It’s the last game and we’re going to go out there and give our best. I want to win our last game.”
Western United: 1. Fabrizio PRATTICO (GK), 2. Aleck WICKHAM, 3. George KAKAI, 4. Cecil BURU, 5. Freddie KINI, 6. Matson FENI, 7. Paul WALE, 8. Henry FAARODO, 9. Benjamin TOTORI, 10. Atana FAARODO, 11. Joachim WAROI, 12. Anderson DOEDOKE, 13. James NAKA, 14. Moffat KILIFA, 15. Brian PETER, 16. Gagame FENI, 17. Nelson SALE, 18. Nicholas TARAITO, 19. Lenson BISILI, 20. Anthony TALO (GK), 21. Abraham MAEZAMA, 22. Joses NAWO, 23. Molis GAGAME.
Coach: Commins MENAPI (SOL)
Auckland City vs Malampa Revivors
Mangere Centre Park
Auckland, New Zealand
Saturday 18 March
Auckland City (NZL)
Vital Statistics: “UEFA Pro Licence coach Ramon Tribulietx has been involved with Auckland City FC for their past six consecutive OFC Champions League title wins. Tribulietx remains at the helm of the side for the 2017 edition of the competition, and is hoping to see Auckland City qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup under his leadership for the seventh time.”
The Players: Fabrizio Tavano showcased his talent and accuracy in Auckland City’s clash with Lae City Dwellers, setting up Clayton Lewis to score the only goal of the first half when the Mexican-born striker sent a free kick straight to Lewis’ head. Tavano nearly found the net himself a few times during the match but was unable to slip the ball past Ronald Warisan’s sticky hands with his quality attempts.
Coach Quote: “We need to make sure that we are tuned up for the game. It’s going to be another difficult battle against a team that’s going to run and run and run with a lot of intensity. We need to make sure we’re up for it.”
Auckland City FC: 1.Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 2. Harshae RANIGA, 3. Takuya IWATA, 4. Mario BILEN, 5. Angel BERLANGA, 6. Cam HOWIESON, 7. Reid DRAKE, 8. Albert RIERA, 9. Darren WHITE, 10. Ryan DE VRIES, 11. Fabrizio TAVANO, 13. Alfie ROGERS, 14. Clayton LEWIS, 15. Mario ILICH, 16. Daewook KIM, 18. Danyon DRAKE (GK), 19. Micah LEA’ALAFA, 20. Emiliano TADE, 21. Harry EDGE, 22. Abdullah AL-KALISY, 23. Marko DORDEVIC, 24. Jacob SPOONLEY (GK).
Coach: Ramon Tribulietx (ESP)
Malampa Revivors (VAN)
Vital Statistics: With only 90 minutes of experience in the OFC Champions League, Malampa Revivors lifted to a new level in their Wednesday fixture against Western United. The Vanuatu side managed to find the goal once but were unlucky to concede a penalty in the 75th minute to end the match at 2-1 to Western United.
The Players: Naruel Maliu made a huge contribution to the improved score margin in Malampa Revivors’ last match against Western United, sending the crowd into a frenzy when he saved Paul Wale’s penalty in the last minutes of the game. The keeper only allowed one goal past him in open play and one from a penalty, a huge improvement after conceding five goals to Lae City Dwellers in their debut.
Assistant Coach Quote: “We have prepared hard and I know we will put in a good game. We will try our best to give a good finish.”
Malampa Revivors: 1. Jimmy LUKAI (GK), 2. Anthony MAAN, 3. Ismael SAM, 5. Dondy KILETEIR, 6. Walla JACOM, 7. Samson WAMILY, 8. John ALICK, 9. Esly JAPHET, 10. Ismael EDWARD, 11. Andre BATICK, 12. Marcelin PILOE, 13. Pedro WIS, 14. Nos KENNETH, 15. Remy TIMAS, 16. Michael HURI, 17. Edwin BAI, 18. Pierre MALERE, 19. Alex NALESSABONG, 20. Naruel MALIU (GK), 21. Samuel WAMILY, 22. Trevor LENGA, 23. Brian IAVRO.
Suspensions: 4. Greg BANI.
Coach: Percy AVOCK (VAN)
Assistant Coach: Steven HAM (VAN)