OFC Men’s Champions League 2017

Auckland City captain Angel Berlanga with the OFC Championship trophy. OFC Champions League 2017, Grand Final 2nd Leg, Team Wellington v Auckland City FC, David Farrington Park, Wellington, Sunday 7th May 2017. Photo: Dave Lintott / www.phototek.nz

The 16th edition of the OFC Champions League took place in 2017 and was contested between sixteen teams, the most in competition history. The format change saw four groups of four with the top side in each group progressing to the knockout rounds, where the semi-finals and final were played over two legs home-and-away.

Each group was also held at a specific and unique venue. AS Magenta hosted Group A at the Stade Numa-Daly in Noumea, and were joined by Madang FC, AS Central Sport, and Lupe Ole Soaga SC, whilst Hienghene Sport hosted Group B at Stade Yoshida in Kone, and were drawn alongside Team Wellington, Ba FC, and Puaikura FC. Six-time defending champions Auckland City FC hosted Group C at Mangere Centre Park in Auckland, and were grouped with Western United, Malampa Revivors FC, and Lae City FC, and finally AS Tefana hosted Group D at Stade Pater in Pirae, alongside Rewa FC, Erakor Golden Star FC, and Marist FC. AS Central Sport opened the new-look competition with a frenetic 7-3 victory over Madang FC in a ten-goal Group A thriller.

Auckland City’s Alfie Rogers celebrates hihs goal. OFC Champions League 2017, Group C, Western United v Auckland City FC, Centre Park Auckland, Saturday 11th March 2017. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz

Host club AS Magenta soon took control though, beating AS Central Sport 4-2 and claiming maximum points with three wins from three to top the group in Noumea. Group B was decided by two-time runners-up Team Wellington’s clash with host club Hienghene Sport at Stade Yoshida in Kone. The contest was level at halftime, but Team Wellington ran away with two late second half goals to secure a 3-1 victory and top spot in the group. They finished with the full maximum of nine points, whilst Hienghene Sport stumbled to second with just four points, tied with third-placed Ba FC. Playing with home ground advantage at Mangere Centre Park, Auckland City FC were pushed hard in their Group C opener against Western United, requiring a late penalty to steal a 2-1 victory. They soon found their groove though, and wrapped up top spot with a massive 11-0 win over Malampa Revivors FC on the final day of play, following four goals from Ryan De Vries and three from Joao Morreira.

Western United finished three points behind in second with victories over Malampa Revivors and Lae City FC. Group D proved the most hard-fought of the four pools, with all four teams picking up a victory. Host club AS Tefana were the most consistent in front of a home crowd at Stade Pater in Pirae though, winning their first two matches against Erakor Golden Star FC and Rewa FC. Marist FC were still in with a chance when they met the Tahitian club on the final matchday, but Tefana held on for a 2-2 draw to seal top spot and progression to the semi-finals. Auckland City FC always looked comfortable in their semi-final tie with AS Tefana, securing a 2-0 away victory in the first leg, before finishing the job at home with another 2-0 success to book their place in the final 4-0 on aggregate.

Guillermo Moretti (Wellington, left) and Albert Riera contest the ball. OFC Champions League 2017, Grand Final 2nd Leg, Team Wellington v Auckland City FC, David Farrington Park, Wellington, Sunday 7th May 2017. Photo: Dave Lintott / www.phototek.nz

Team Wellington was made to work harder for a 2-2 away draw at AS Magenta in the first leg of their semi-final tie, but romped home with a ruthless 7-1 victory in the second leg at home to progress to a third straight final 9-3 on aggregate. Auckland City FC and Team Wellington met in the final for the third season in a row, where two goals from Joao Morreira fired the former to an unassailable 3-0 victory in the first leg at Kiwitea Street.

Team Wellington couldn’t fight back at David Farrington Park, as Ryan De Vries and Emiliano Tade got on the scoresheet to give Auckland City a 2-0 second leg win and a 5-0 victory on aggregate, securing the club’s seventh consecutive and ninth OFC Champions League title overall. De Vries and Morreira finished as the tournament’s joint top-scorer with six goals, alongside Team Wellington’s Tom Jackson.

Auckland City won the other three remaining awards, with Angel Berlanga winning the golden ball, Enuat Zubikarai receiving the golden glove, and snapping up the fair play award as a team overall. As continental champions, Auckland City qualified for the 2017 FIFA Club World Cup in the UAE, but fell in the first round with a 0-1 loss to host club Al-Jazira.