A clash between match day one victors AS Dragon and Erakor Golden Star headlines the second day of Group B action in Papeete, Tahiti on Wednesday (local time) with each side determined to edge closer to the OFC Champions League quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, in the afternoon kick-off at Stade Pater it’s do-or-die for Solomon Warriors and New Caledonia’s AS Lossi who each need points to keep alive their hopes of claiming one of the two playoff places on offer.
Buoyed by their 2-0 win over Solomon Warriors on Sunday, Erakor Golden Star’s coach Obed Jimmy said the Vanuatu club were riding a wave of confidence as they look to back up against the Tahitian champions.
“I told our players before the first game that the first match would push us to a new level,” Jimmy said.
“Our aim is to get to the quarterfinals and I know I can count on my players including those who were on the bench if I decide to use them. I don’t see that there’s anything to stop us reaching our target.”
Despite Dragon boasting a number of players with experience in the French professional system, including Ligue 1 veterans Marama Vahirua and Reynald Lemaitre, Jimmy said his players were far from daunted by the challenge.
“All the players they feel hungry to play against these players and to test them. With the level of Dragon’s play we don’t see anything to fear when we play them.”
Host club AS Dragon were the big winners on day one, posting a 4-0 win in a Francophone derby but struggled to break down 10-man Lossi side in the first half and almost trailed at the break.
Coach Timiona Asen put the slow start down to a case of stage fright.
“You have to take into consideration the fact that for most of the players on the pitch it was their very first match in the OFC Champions League, And this added to the fact they were playing in front of a big crowd made them feel a bit lost.
“At half time I readjusted the tactics because I noticed that Lossi were always attacking even though they were playing at 10. So I played with just one defensive midfield and the other midfielders supporting him when needed.”
Dragon staff are monitoring an injury to Marama Vahirua, who limped off just before halftime on Sunday, but Asen said if they have to replace the veteran striker the loss would be lessened by the strengths of a younger player in a tweaked system.
“Everybody’s focusing on Marama because he’s a great player, that’s normal. But you have to keep in mind that he’s not twenty anymore.
“But that’s ok because I have young players who are ready to come in but of course Marama’s role is very important in the team and in the way it plays. If he’s not fit to play I will change the system and put a player who will press the opponents constantly.”
For Solomon Warriors and AS Lossi, recovery from Sunday takes on even more importance having played some their respective matches on a rain-soaked Stade Pater pitch with just ten men. But with their quarterfinal hopes in the balance there is still much work to be done on the pitch before the do-or-die clash.
Moses Toata says it wasn’t difficult the main work-on after missing multiple chances to take the lead against Erakor.
“Our first thoughts on how quickly we can recover. Hopefully we have time to work on our finishing which was clearly lacking from the first match,” Toata said.
“We did well in the match I thought. We actually created a lot of chances. I don’t know what happened to the boys but you can’t afford to miss those in this competition. Football is about scoring goals. If you can’t score then it’s something else. If we can put away our chances, we’ll be okay.”
And with just two games left to secure enough points, Toata echoed the same confidence as his counterparts in the group that his team would get the job done.
“I’m definitely sure we’re going to go through. We’re preparing for Wednesday’s game and Saturday’s game but focussing mostly on Lossi of course.”
Lossi claimed an unwanted moral victory in their first match sticking with an commitment to attack even when a player short and despite the 4-0 reverse, coach Victor Wejieme said picking his players back up, at least mentally, will not be an issue.
“Wednesday will be a different game, I have confidence in my players and, from what I could feel when we had dinner all together after the match, they have regained confidence too. They’re now focusing on recovering: resting well, eating well and getting the treatments they need.”
“So far, Dragon and Erakor both have one victory, but all is not lost for us, we can still qualify for the quarters,” Wejieme said.
“We’ll take the two matches one at the time and we’ll do our best to ensure the team is ready for each one of them and we’ll count the points at the end.
“I don’t know yet if we’ll change our game system or not but I have confidence in my players. There’s just some fatigue due to the fact that we were reduced to 10 men during most of the match yesterday. If we had played the whole match 11 vs 11, I think the situation will be different than what it is today.”
Solomon Warriors and AS Lossi get match day two day underway at 3pm local time (12pm Thursday NCL/SOL/VAN) with Erakor Golden Star and AS Dragon kicking off three hours later at 6pm local time.
Solomon Warriors [SOL] vs. AS Lossi [NCL]
Wednesday 14 February
Kick-off: 15h00 (local)
(12h00 NCL/SOL/VAN Thursday 15 Feb)
Referee: Sione LELENGA (TGA)
Assistant Referee 1: Sione TEU (TGA).
Assistant Referee 2: Glen LOCHRIE (NZL)
Fourth Official: Campbell-Kirk WAUGH (NZL)
Vital Statistics: Warriors have now lost their opening group stage match in each of their four OFC Champions League campaigns. In each of the three previous campaigns they bounced back to claim a draw in their next match.
The Players: John Alick was in impressive form in midfield for the Honiara side, radiating calm on the ball and never appearing rushed in picking out his options. He was also instrumental in breaking down Erakor attacks until his side went a man down.
Coach Quote: “I think Lossi had more of an edge with ten men [against AS Dragon]. It gave them motivation to fight and get themselves in the game. But eventually it was too much and we saw those goals go in.”
Team List: 1. Joseph KOMU (GK), 2. Haddis AENGARI, 3. Allen PETER, 4. Jason THOMAS, 5. Fred FAKARI, 6. Molea TIGI, 8. John ALICK, 9. Jerry DONGA, 10. Judd MOLEA, 11. Ian PAIA, 12. Albert WITNEY, 14. Augustine SAMANI, 16. Emmanuel POILA, 17. Gibson DAUDAU, 22. Bata FURAI, 23. Gagame FENI, 24. Kensi TANGIS.
Suspended: 28. Abraham BIRD (GK).
Coach: Moses TOATA (SOL)
Vital Statistics: Lossi played 70 minutes with ten men of their match against AS Dragon but were arguably the better team for the first 25 of those until half-time.
The Players: Pierre Kouma played a captain’s knock against Dragon in the heart of Lossi’s defence, stifling a number of the Tahitians’ attacking forays. His workload was substantial as the red card for left back Warren Saiko left him covering almost two positions as Lossi elected to retain their attacking shape further up-field.
Coach Quote: “After the match, in the changing room, I congratulated my players for the way they played in the first half and some of the second half too. I encouraged them, all the staff encouraged them too. We haven’t lost yet, there are still two matches to be played and now it all comes down to those two matches.”
Team List: 1. Nicodem HMAEN (GK), 2. Jules KAUMA, 3. Jonathan KAKOU, 4. Jean Paul READ, 5. Pierre KAUMA (c), 7. Damien WANAPOPO, 8. Morgan MATHELON, 9. Raoul WENISSO, 10. Mone WAMOWE, 12. Clarence NYIPIE, 14. Robert WAOUKA, 15. Paul OZIKA, 17. Henri WAIMA, 19. Amy HNAGEJE, 21. Ben-Drela HMAEN, 29. Emmanuel WEJIEME (GK), 30. Patrick NYIKEINE (GK).
Suspended: 13. Warren SAIKO
Coach: Victor WEJIEME (NCL)
Erakor Golden Star [VAN] vs. AS Dragon [TAH]
Wednesday 14 February
Kick-off: 18h00 (local)
(15h00 NCL/SOL/VAN Thursday 15 Feb)
Referee: Nick WALDRON (NZL)
Assistant Referee 1: Isaac TREVIS (NZL)
Assistant Referee 2: Mark RULE (NZL)
Fourth Official: Peter LINNEY (NZL)
Erakor Golden Star
Vital Statistics: Sunday’s victory over Solomon Warriors was the first time in four Champions League matches that Erakor has kept a cleansheet. Barry Mansale’s superb free-kick was the first goal Erakor scored by someone other than Tony Kaltack.
The Players: Goalkeeper Gershom Kalson was in superb form between the sticks in Erakor’s opening win, with his speed off the line particularly effective in denying a number of Warriors chances in the first half.
Coach Quote: “We watched Dragon’s game and we’ve seen how we can play against them on Wednesday. We’ve got ideas on what we need to do.”
Team List: 1. Chikau MANSALE (GK), 2. Jack WANEMUT, 3. Jesse KALOPONG, 4. Gordshem DONA, 5. Selwyn VATU, 6. Robert TOUKOUNE, 7. Kaltfer KALTACK, 8. Ronaldo WILKINS, 9. Tony KALTACK, 10. Jacky RUBEN (c), 11. Nemani ROQARA, 12. Bernard DANIEL, 13. Godine TENENE, 15. Elkington MOLIVAKARUA, 16. Joseph IARUEL, 18. Barry MANSALE, 20. Serge DANIEL (GK), 22. Gerhsom KALSONG.
Coach: Obed JIMMY (VAN)
Vital Statistics: Both of Dragon’s two previous OFC Champions League campaigns have seen them finish third in their group behind the eventual finalists. Waitakere and Auckland City in 2012-13 and Amicale and Auckland City in 2013-14).
The Players: Sullivan Duee added plenty of energy in Dragon’s midfield, especially in a much improved team performance in the second half. The diminutive defensive midfielder is currently on leave from his job as a soldier in the French military to take part in the group stage of the OFC Champions League.
Coach Quote: “Winning the first match was our goal so that we would have the opportunity to qualify straight after the second one. Winning and get the qualification is very important but I want to win ‘playing our game’ so that it will bring confidence to the team.”
Team List: 1. Gilbert MERIEL (GK), 2. Victor SNOW, 3. Teata HAUATA, 5. Gabriel VAKOUME, 6. Hennel TEHAAMOANA, 7. Salomon TEVEPAUHU, 9. Samuel HNANYINE, 10. Marama VAHIRUA, 11. Rainui TZE-YU, 12. Logan LEDUC, 15. Sullivan DUEE, 16. Tamatoa TETAUIRA (c), 18. Louis PETITGAS, 21. Christophe GENDRON, 22. Clyde TINIAU, 23. Reynald LEMAITRE, 24. Teinaore SEINO, 30. Benjamin TARDIVEL (GK).
Coach: Timiona ASEN (TAH)