Lupe make history in Tahiti

Lupe Ole Soaga SC players celebrate after another goal in their win over Ba FC. Photo Credit: OFC/Massimo Colombini.

Lupe Ole Soaga SC have become the first Samoan club to win a game in the group stages of the OFC Champions League.

They beat Fiji’s Ba FC 4-3 in a thrilling encounter at Stade Mahina in Tahiti on Wednesday night (TAH time) before Auckland City moved to the top of Group D with a hard-fought 1-0 win over home side AS Venus in the later fixture.

Lupe Ole Soaga SC 4-3 Ba FC

Lupe stunned Ba with four first-half goals courtesy of Jamie Mason, Tomas Mosquera, Vaa Taualai and Ritchievoy Ueligitone and they looked like they were in cruise control by the time the whistle was blown to signal halftime.

But Ba weren’t going to roll over meekly and they scored three goals between the 72nd and 76th minute, via Malakai Tiwa, Saula Waqa and Samuela Drudru, as they roared back into the game.

Despite having a collection of other chances late in the match Ba couldn’t find an equaliser and would need something out of the ordinary to find a way to advance in the competition.

Lupe earned their place in Group D after winning the Qualifying Stage tournament in Auckland in January and their previous best result in the group stages was a 3-3 draw with Tahiti’s AS Pirae in 2015. Samoan club Kiwi have also qualified for the Champions League in recent years but have not won a pool game.

No team from any nation has won a pool game in the Champions League since the current Qualifying Stage format was introduced in 2013-2014.

Lupe coach Paul Ualesi was emotional after the game as he soaked up the occasion.

“It’s a proud moment for us, this is history for a club in Samoa, just winning a game,” he said. “I’m so proud of my boys.”

When the heat went on at a humid Stade Mahina, Ualesi said he told his team to believe.

“I was just holding the boys up, saying, hey if you want to make history just stay on your feet, stand up on your feet and have a big heart.”

Ualesi said he was grateful to their fans for the support and prayers they had sent the team.

Ba coach Ricki Herbert was disappointed his side didn’t show up in the opening spell.

“It’s just really coming to this competition understanding it’s every minute that you’re on the football pitch that you’ve got to be competitive, no matter who you’re playing,” Herbert said.

Lupe will play Auckland City in the first game of the final match day for Group D on Saturday likely needing a draw or a win to move on to the quarter-finals. Ba will meet Venus and Ba could have no mathematical way to advance depending on the result of the Auckland and Lupe game.

AS Venus 0-1 Auckland City FC

Auckland City have put themselves in the best possible position to secure a home quarter-final after they beat Venus 1-0.

It wasn’t the prettiest performance the Navy Blues have delivered but they got the job done at the home ground of Tahitian club Venus.

A Myer Bevan goal in the 42nd minute was the difference between the sides in a testy affair that featured a collection of yellow cards.

“We knew they were a quality side with a real energy and togetherness and you can see why they’re one of the top teams here,” Auckland City FC coach Jose Figueira said.

“In the first half I was really happy with how the players played and the second half was a classic roll your sleeves up and show the other side that you need to be if you want to go far in this competition. You know, it’s not all plain sailing, you need to dig deep at times and I thought the players showed a huge amount of personality in the second half against a team on their home pitch with a noisy crowd and a big atmosphere.”

Venus had a couple of chances to level the ledger late in the game but they couldn’t quite nail their opportunities and coach Sam Garcia was left to lament what may have been in front of their passionate home fans.

“It was their family who was here tonight. We’re a family here in Mahina so it was obviously motivating, but it’s not just that. The public is important but we knew our opponent, we put in place our tactical plan and we frustrated them, physically we never gave up,” Garcia said.

“They’re a great team, they held onto the ball well, and we knew they would, we frustrated them in our way and we weren’t far off, I would have liked us to have drawn so we were both qualified. Now we have to go in search of the qualification on Saturday against Ba.”

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