Tahiti’s AS Vénus are through to the semi-finals of the OFC Champions League 2022 after Kevin Barbe’s second-half header secured a tightly contested 1-0 win over 10-man Lae City FC.
Both teams played their opening games of the tournament under blue skies at Ngahue Reserve but today was a different prospect as the heavens opened over Auckland.
The result was a disjointed and at times tetchy affair as both teams struggled to come to terms with the conditions.
Lae City had the best chances of the first-half, Philip Steven’s effort blocked brilliantly by Vénus defender Barbe, with Stahl Gubag wasting the follow-up.
Alwin Komolong tested Vénus stopper Teave Teamotuaitau from distance on the stroke of half-time, the goalkeeper forced into shovelling his strike wide as tensions flared at the end of a scrappy opening 45 minutes – with players from both teams entering referee Matthew Conger’s book.
Vénus captain Teaonui Tehau scored a hat-trick in their 3-0 win over Central Coast but the dangerman missed a golden opportunity to give his side the lead just shy of the hour mark, hitting a tame effort straight at Lae City goalkeeper Ronald Warisan when through on goal.
Lae City’s challenge then became more difficult when they were reduced to 10 men, Obert Bika handed his second yellow card following a reckless challenge on Roonui Tehau.
The Papua New Guinea side continued to look threatening, Gubag’s snapshot half-volley well palmed by Teamotuaitau.
However, the Mahina-based side eventually took advantage of their extra man, the winner coming from an unlikely source with just 10 minutes remaining.
It was the centre-back Barbe who scored the crucial goal, rising high to head Tauhiti Keck’s swerving corner-kick delivery past Warisan to secure the win and the Tahitian side’s place in the final four.
Lae City now face a crunch decider against the team currently in second-place, Central Coast FC of the Solomon Islands, on Wednesday while Vénus take on Galaxy FC later the same day.
AS Vénus 1 (Kevin BARBE 80’)
Lae City FC 0