OFC Men’s Champions League 2019

OFC President Lambert Maltock presents Hienghene Sport’s Bertrand Kai with the Champions League trophy. OFC Champions League 2019 Final, AS Magenta v Hienghène Sport, Stade Numa Daly, Noumea, New Caledonia, Saturday 11th May 2019. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz

The 18th edition of the OFC Champions League was held in 2019 and was again contested between sixteen clubs. This time the semi-final and final were all played at the Stade Numa-Daly in Noumea, New Caledonia and were held over one leg. Hienghene Sport hosted Group A at the Stade Yoshida in Kone, and were joined by AS Tefana, Lae City FC, and Malampa Revivors FC, whilst Lautoka FC hosted Group B at Churchill Park in Lautoka, and were drawn alongside AS Central Sport, Henderson Eels FC, and FC Morobe Wawens. Erakor Golden Star FC hosted Group C at the Korman Stadium in Port Vila, alongside Team Wellington, Ba FC, and Kiwi FC, and finally the Solomon Warriors hosted Group D at the Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara, and were grouped with Auckland City FC, AS Magenta, and Tupapa Maerarenga FC.

Auckland’s David Browne in action. OFC Champions League 2019, Quarter Final, Auckland City FC v Lae City Dwellers, Kiwitea Street, Auckland, Saturday 6th April 2019. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz

Group A hosts Hienghene Sport laid down a marker on the very first day of the competition, claiming a 5-0 victory over Malampa Revivors FC with the help of a hat-trick from Bertrand Kai. They then defeated AS Tefana to secure quarter-final qualification with a match to play, followed by a draw with Lae City FC in their final group fixture to claim top spot. Papua New Guinea league champions Lae City also joined them in the final eight, going unbeaten through their three matches to take second in the group. AS Central Sport were the team to beat in Group B, securing top spot with two wins and a draw from their three fixtures. Group hosts and 2018 runners-up Lautoka FC got off to a strong start with a 5-0 victory over Morobe Wawens, but they conceded two injury-time goals to Henderson Eels FC and fell to a 5-6 defeat in one of the greatest OFC Champions League games played. That defeat proved a sucker blow as Lautoka fell to an early exit, and Henderson advanced in second place.

Defending champions Team Wellington swept all before them in Group C, beating Ba FC 2-0, Kiwi FC 13-0, and group hosts Erakor Golden Star 3-0 at the Korman Stadium in Port Vila. With maximum points, eighteen goals scored, and none conceded, Team Wellington secured top spot rather convincingly. Ba FC and Erakor Golden Star finished tied on four points, but the former progressed to the quarter-finals ahead of the home side based on a superior goal difference. Despite defeating Tupapa Maraerenga FC 10-1 on the opening matchday, Group D hosts, the Solomon Warriors, struggled and fell to heavy defeats against both AS Magenta and Auckland City FC. The definitive match in the group proved to be Auckland City’s hard-fought 2-1 victory over AS Magenta, securing top spot as both clubs advanced to the quarter-finals.

A hat-trick from Kevin Nemia left Stade Pater stunned as AS Magenta cruised to a convincing 8-0 victory away at AS Central Sport in the first quarter-final, whilst another hat-trick from David Browne ensured Auckland City FC progressed past Lae City FC 4-0 at Kiwitea Street. The third quarter-final between Hienghene Sport and Ba FC was forced to extra-time, before the former emerged victorious 2-1 at Stade Yoshida, and Team Wellington rounded out the last eight fixtures with a massive 6-1 victory over the Henderson Eels at David Farrington Park, also inspired by a hat-trick from Ross Allen. Both semi-finals saw New Caledonian and New Zealand clubs facing off, and Hienghene Sport defeated defending champions Team Wellington 2-0 in the first, through goals from Geordy Gony and Jefferson Dahite.

AS Magenta then stunned Auckland City FC 2-1 in the second semi-final, ensuring no New Zealand or Australian club would feature in the final for the first time in competition history, after coming from behind to secure victory with a late winner Kevin Maitran. In an all-New Caledonian affair, Hienghene Sport emerged as continental champions with a 1-0 victory over AS Magenta in the final at the Stade Numa-Daly in Noumea.

Magenta scores and celebrates their 2nd goal. OFC Champions League 2019, Semi Final, AS Magenta v Auckland City FC, Stade Numa Daly, Noumea, New Caledonia, Sunday 28th April 2019. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz

Antoine Roine’s second half goal proved the difference as Hienghene Sport lifted the OFC Champions League title and became the first club outside of Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea to claim the continental crown. Hienghene Sport captain Bertrand Kai was awarded the tournament’s golden ball, whilst teammate Rocky Nyikeine received the golden glove. Team Wellington’s Ross Allen received the golden boot with his eleven goals in the tournament, and Auckland City picked up the fair play award.

Hienghène Sport celebrate hHienghene Sport’s Jefferson Dahite’ goal that has propelled Hienghène Sport into their first ever Champions League final. OFC Champions League 2019, Semi Final, Hienghène Sport v Team Wellington, Stade Numa Daly, Noumea, New Caledonia, Sunday 28th April 2019. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz

Despite levelling the game up just after halftime and forcing it to extra-time, Hienghene Sport fell to a 1-3 defeat at the first hurdle to host club Al-Sadd as the OFC representative at the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar.