Group C hosts AS Magenta have secured their place in the knockout stages of the OFC Champions League following a thrilling five-goal victory over AS Tiare Tahiti on Wednesday night at Noumea’s Stade Numa Daly.
The result, which has ended the Tahitian newcomers’ maiden continental campaign, means the New Caledonians will face the Solomon Warriors in Saturday’s third and final matchday to decide group supremacy as well as hosting rights for next month’s quarterfinals.
AS Magenta 3-2 AS Tiare Tahiti
Knowing that a victory would guarantee their spot in the final eight in Oceania’s premier club football competition, the local hopefuls AS Magenta showed intent during the early exchanges controlling both territorial and ball possession.
However, after absorbing the initial pressure AS Tiare Tahiti grew in confidence to grab a deserved lead halfway through the first half courtesy of Manarii Porlier, who only came on minutes earlier to replace the injured Bio Odo Chabi.
Last year’s runners-up AS Magenta used their experience to level the scores deep into injury time in the first half with Kevin Nemia smashing home to punish some hesitant defending.
Alain Moizan’s charges rode their luck to grab the advantage six minutes after the restart when Tiare defender Rico Haring put the ball into his own net.
Both sides threw caution to the wind as the match gathered frantic space with plenty of action at both ends.
Jean Christ Wajoka hit the post following a swift Magenta move before Tevairoa Tehuritaua ran at Nicodem Hmaen who did enough to deny him as the ball bounced of the New Caledonian post.
Tiare skipper Tevaihau Tehuritaua wasted a golden opportunity to get his side back on level terms by blasting his penalty conversion attempt over the crossbar, but luckily for the Tahitians, Porlier was at the right place again just minutes later to burst the net with a well-struck drive.
However, there was still time for a late twist as Kevin Nemia popped up for his second of the match to head home from close range for the hosts with only two minutes on the clock.
To their credit the Tahitians fought till the end and hit the crossbar before forcing a last-ditch goal-line clearance in added time, but the hosts survived to grab 3 points to the delight of their coach.
“It’s a great result, especially considering our limited preparations,” said Alain Moizan.
“It was a difficult game for us, mainly because we are still in our off-season and I think if we were in better condition we could have made this win a bit easier. I’m proud of the boys, they showed a lot of character to grind out the win when it mattered,” added the Magenta coach.
Meanwhile his Tahitian counterpart couldn’t hide his disappointment.
“We came so close and we put up a good fight, our game plan almost worked,” lamented Vatea Terai.
“We had plenty of chances to score and we gifted Magenta with some goals. But being part of the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history has been a great experience for my player and the staff and we will do our best to come back next year,” added the AS Tiare Tahiti coach.
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