OFC Men’s Champions League 2014

(Auckland celebrate winning the Presidents Cup. OFC Presidents Cup, Grand Final, Auckland City FC v Amicale FC, Trusts Arena Auckland, Sunday 23rd November 2014. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz)

The 13th edition of the OFC Champions League was held in 2014 and was contested between twelve clubs, the most previously seen in tournament history. Once again the format underwent a change with three groups of four, and the top side in each group qualifying for the semi-finals alongside the highest-ranked second-placed side.

The group stage was hosted across two venues in Fiji, before the semi-finals and final were played home-and-away over two legs. 2013 runners-up Waitakere United were joined by AS Pirae, Kiwi FC, and the Solomon Warriors in Group A, whilst three-time defending champions were drawn alongside Amicale FC, AS Dragon, and Nadi FC in Group B, and host club Ba FC were grouped with Tafea FC, Hekari United FC, as AS Magenta in Group C. Tahitian champions AS Pirae impressed in Group A, claiming maximum points from their three group fixtures played at Churchill Park in Lautoka, with a 2-1 win over the Solomon Warriors, an 8-0 drubbing of Kiwi FC, and a 3-1 victory over Waitakere United on the final matchday.

Two-time champions Waitakere United struggled in contrast with just four points to their name alongside the Solomon Warriors, as AS Pirae topped the group to qualify for the semi-finals. Auckland City FC and Amicale FC were the dominant forces in Group B, also played at Churchill Park in Lautoka. Both sides won their first two group fixtures to set up a decisive meeting between each other on the final day of play. A goal from Dominique Fred helped Amicale to a 1-0 victory, gaining revenge for their 2011 OFC Champions League final defeat and securing top spot in the group. Three-time defending champions Auckland City’s blushes were saved, by joining them in the semi-finals as the best second-placed side. Backed on by a home crowd at Govind Park, Ba FC took control of Group C with wins over AS Magenta and Tafea FC in their opening two matches. They were held to a 1-1 draw by 2010 champions Hekari United in the final group fixture, but still topped the group and qualified for the semi-finals, finishing three points clear of second-placed AS Magenta. Emiliano Tade did the damage for Auckland City FC in the first leg of their semi-final tie with AS Pirae, scoring twice as they defeated the Tahitian champions 3-0 at Kiwitea Street.

AS Pirae fought back with a 2-1 victory at Stade Pater, but it wasn’t enough as Auckland City progressed to the final with a 4-2 win on aggregate. The second semi-final was also a hard-fought affair, as Amicale FC took the early advantage with a 2-1 success away from home against Ba FC in the first leg at Govind Park. A nervy second leg ensued in Port Vila, but Amicale held out for a goalless draw to qualify for their second OFC Champions League final. The final proved to be a dramatic affair, as Amicale and Auckland City played out a 1-1 draw in the first leg in front of a strong 10,000 plus crowd at the Port Vila Municipal Stadium. Emilano Tade opened the scoring for the visitors in the first half, but Dominique Fred repeated his goal from their Group B fixture with fifteen minutes to play to keep the tie level pegging. Amicale appeared to be on their way to a maiden continental title in the second leg at Auckland’s Trusts Arena after edging ahead with a strike from Kensi Tangis in first-half stoppage time.

Amicale’s Francois Sakama celebrates his goal. OFC Presidents Cup, Grand Final, Auckland City FC v Amicale FC, Trusts Arena Auckland, Sunday 23rd November 2014. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz

As they did against the same opposition in the 2011 final though, Auckland City struck back with late goals from Ryan De Vries and Emilano Tade to win 2-1 on the day and 3-2 on aggregate, securing their fourth consecutive and sixth OFC Champions League title overall. Emilano Tade finished as the tournament’s joint top-scorer alongside AS Pirae’s Naea Bennett with six goals, and also received the golden ball as the competition’s best player. Amicale FC’s Chikau Mansale was awarded the golden glove, whilst football fans in Vanuatu received the fair play award for their support of Amicale’s run to the final.

Auckland City FC qualified for the 2014 FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco as continental champions and stunned the world with an incredible third place finish. They opened with a win over host club Moghreb Tetouan on penalties, before defeating CAF champions ES Setif 1-0 in the quarter-final with a second half strike from John Irving. Unfortunately they were beaten 1-2 by CONMEBOL champions San Lorenzo after extra-time in the semi-final, but secured the bronze medal after beating CONCACAF champions Cruz Azul on penalties after a 1-1 draw in normal-time.

Ivan Vicelich famously received the tournament’s bronze ball, and Auckland City FC’s third-place finish remains the highest of any OFC club at the FIFA Club World Cup.