AS Magenta are the first side to qualify for the OFC Champions League semi-finals and do so unbeaten with the full complement of points after beating Madang 5-0 in their final Group A match at Stade Numa Daly in Nouméa this evening.
AS Central Sport also finished with a win, beating Lupe Ole Soaga 3-0, but it did little to make up for the hurt they endured at the hands of Magenta two days earlier which effectively ended their semi-final hopes.
AS Magenta coach Alain Moizan had hoped to qualify for the semi-finals, but to do so unbeaten was better than he could have imagined.
“We absolutely wanted to exit from the group and we managed to do that uncontested, with all nine points after winning all three matches,” Moizan enthused.
“Tonight we managed to score five unanswered goals and it’s like an extra treat because it’s rare that we don’t concede at least one goal.”
Moizan was a little concerned ahead of the match that his side may have been taking a slightly complacent approach to their final group game but his concerns soon evaporated as the match got underway.
“They were a little too at ease and a little bit too confident which annoyed me. If you don’t respect your opponent then there is always some kind of karmic justice,” he said.
“But they really got into the game, they were consistent and concentrated for the full 90 minutes.”
Magenta began as they intended to continue, pressing high from the outset and pushing Madang back as deep as possible.
A string of shots around the 21st minute were all well covered by Madang’s back line, until a lapse in judgement saw Nigel Malagian bring down Nicolas Marin in the box earning him a caution and Magenta a penalty.
Marin stepped up to convert and made no mistake in slotting past Glen Agat in what would be the lone goal in the half.
Moizan brought Ouvea-native Joseph Athale at the break who gave the home side something different in the middle going into the second half.
On the stroke of the hour Shene Jean Francois Welepane was the finisher of a play he started in the midfield, latching onto a well-timed pass from Marin out right and placing it in at the near post. A few minutes later Welepane had his brace when he completed a sterling solo run into the area.
Kevin Nemia slipped through the defensive line in the 73rd minute to score the fourth before half-time substitute Athale powered a shot in at goal, stunning Agat in the process.
It was a disappointing end to the competition for Madang, but coach Francis Moyap was still proud of his side for their efforts.
“It hasn’t been easy making the step up to this level of competition but we took the opportunity with both hands and I believe each of the players who came here will be better for it,” Moyap said.
“Of course we are disappointed to end on a heavy loss but we got our first win at this level a couple of days ago and that’s something positive we can take home with us.”
In the opening match of the day AS Central Sport were tested by a determined Lupe Ole Soaga who weren’t keen on going home winless.
But Central were also keen to finish in the best manner possible on the off-chance that the results of the late match might fall in their favour.
“It was important for us to finish on a good note because of the defeat we experienced in our second match,” Central coach Cyril Klosek said.
“We wanted a win for the players, but also for the club.”
Klosek rested some of his experienced squad members like Jay Warren and Raimana Dhalluin to give younger legs like Anipea Taata a chance to experience top level football.
It was a slow start for the side which on paper should have dominated their opponent but with Lupe equally determined it wasn’t easy.
It took almost 30 minutes for Central to break down Lupe’s defence when César Castillo pounced on a loose ball and fired past Faalavelave Matagi. Castillo nailed his second of the evening six minutes later when he latched onto a cross from Matatia Paama.
The third goal came swiftly after the second half kicked-off when Miguel Estay bolted one past Matagi from the edge of the 18 yard.
“I think during this tournament the boys have learned a lot, especially about the level that is required,” Lupe Ole Soaga coach Paul Ualesi said.
“I think tonight, defensively, we worked hard in the first half and and even in the second half. The boys executed the game plan well but the finishing wasn’t so good.