New Zealand’s Auckland City have started their pursuit of a tenth OFC Champions League title in style by beating 2019 champions Hienghène Sport of New Caledonia 5-0 on home soil.
First-half goals from Adam Mitchell, Cam Howieson and Dylan Manickum were topped up in the second period by Mario Ilich and Liam Gillion as Auckland City dominated their Group B opener.
Auckland City come into the tournament as favourites and while the sun may have broken through after a misty morning at Ngahue Reserve it took a while for the fog to clear for the visiting Hienghène Sport.
It was two full New Zealand internationals who got Auckland City off to a perfect start. Howieson’s free-kick delivery was touched home by Mitchell for the opener before the centre-back returned the favour, his raking pass assisting Howieson who lifted in Auckland’s second.
In the pre-match build, Auckland City coach Albert Riera was keen to stress Hienghene’s pedigree and the New Caledonian side soon provided a reminder that they are the most recent OFC champions.
Golden Ball winner from the 2019 tournament Bertrand Kai’s powerful header forced Auckland City goalkeeper Conor Tracey into a smart save. The Auckland stopper then produced two stunning saves in quick succession to deny Fonzy Ranchain.
Hienghène’s resurgence was however short-lived as a defensive mix-up gifted Manickum an open goal for 3-0.
Auckland City continued their dominance in the second-half, again threatening from Howieson’s set plays, as Ilich headed home just after the break.
Ilich saw a header cleared off line before Hienghène goalkeeper Jacques Nyikeine did well to prevent substitutes Gillion and Emiliano Tade before Gillion put gloss on the scoreline late on.
Auckland City’s pursuit of a tenth title will continue on Monday when they face Fiji’s Rewa FC while Hienghène will look to bounce back against Cook Islands outfit Nikao Sokattak FC later the same day.
Auckland City FC 5 (Adam MITCHELL 8‘, Cam HOWIESON 14’, Dylan MANICKUM 39’, Mario ILICH 48’, Liam GILLION 88’)
Hienghène Sport 0