AS Magenta have taken their place at the top of the Group A standings after an entertaining 4-2 victory over AS Central Sport, while Lupe Ole Soaga came within 10 minutes of making history before finally falling 4-3 to Madang at the OFC Champions League at Stade Numa Daly this evening.
Lupe Ole Soaga have been one of the best performing teams to have come through qualifier and their fighting spirit is a large part of that success.
However on this occasion Madang proved they wanted it just that little bit more.
“It showed on the field that the boys wanted it more than our brothers from the other side,” Madang coach Francis Moyap said.
“It was a must for us to win this game because like we said, we are going to be competitive here and that’s what we did tonight.”
It was no walk in the park for the Papua New Guinea side however as a strike from Cherbel Khouchaba just three minutes in gave Lupe Ole Soaga the lead.
They didn’t hold the advantage long at all with Patrick Aisa hitting back just two minutes later, before Madang took the lead in the 13th minute courtesy of a Stahl Gubag strike.
After the break Lupe pulled themselves back in line after Khouchaba converted from the spot and they then took the lead for a second time in the encounter following a Lapalapa Toni strike.
It looked like Lupe might be heading for an historic first-time victory for the club, however Madang saw their opponent was tiring and pounced.
Goals to Michael Tole and Samuel Kini within a five minute window saw Madang snatch the lead late, and they managed to hold on until the final whistle.
It was a disappointing end to the match for Paul Ualesi who, for a brief moment, though history was in his side’s hands.
“Hard luck to the boys. I think the last 12 minutes of the game cost us as we were leading but Madang managed to come from behind,” he said.
“I thought we were good in the first 20 minutes but the comeback from Papua New Guinea was very good and it was hard for us to manage them.”
The match of the day was by far the late evening encounter between the two Francophone sides, hosts AS Magenta and Tahitian club AS Central Sport.
Just as in the match which preceded it, the scoring started early with Magenta import Nicolas Marin putting the ball in the back of the net on the 10 minute mark.
The equaliser was a little longer in coming, Matatia Paama waiting until the half-hour mark when he pounced on a spilled save to finish past Jelen Ixoee. A brace for Paama followed when he struck a penalty kick well enough to have Ixoee beaten a second time and give Central a 2-1 lead at half-time.
Central held their own as they came back from the break, however the class of Nicolas Marin and his teammates proved too much for the Tahitians to contain and two further goals were struck by substitute Marek Aucher, and a second of the evening for Marin.
“Of course when you win you’re always happy,” Magenta’s Alain Moizan said.
“For us the goal is to qualify for the semi-finals at least and winning here tonight gets us even closer to doing that.”
While pleased to be reasonably comfortable following the victory Moizan admits that his side were tested almost to their limit in the first half.
“It was a difficult game for us as the Tahitians dominated the middle of the field,” he said.
“I asked the players to take back this sector in particular because if they don’t, then we won’t win the match. We were able to take it back in the second half and that’s why we won.”
Having had to watch the victory slip through their fingers, Central Sport coach Cyril Klosek was understandably down following the match.
“It’s a deception for us for sure,” he said of the loss.
“We came here to win and the score in the end isn’t really a good representation of the match itself.
“But despite the disappointment I’ve told the players to hold their heads high as they played valiantly this evening.”
The four sides in Group A will return to Stade Numa Daly on Friday for their final matches here in New Caledonia.
AS Central Sport will open proceedings at 5pm against Lupe Ole Soaga before AS Magenta play Madang at 8pm.