OFC Men’s Champions League 2023

Auckland celebrate winning tghe 2023 Champions League. OFC Champions League 2023, Final, Auckland City FC v Suva FC, VFF Freshwater Stadium, Port Vila, Vanuatu, Saturday 27th May 2023. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz

The 20th edition of the OFC Champions League was held in 2023 and contested between eight clubs. The tournament was hosted in Vanuatu, and matches were split across the Luganville Soccer City Stadium and the VFF Freshwater Stadium in Port Vila. Defending champions Auckland City FC were drawn alongside Suva FC, Lupe Ole Soaga SC, and the Solomon Warriors in Group A, whilst hosts Ifira Black Bird were joined by AS Pirae, Tiga Sport, and Hekari United FC in Group B.

Defending champions Auckland City FC stamped their mark on Group A straight away, opening with back-to-back 3-1 victories over both the Solomon Warriors and Suva FC and securing top spot. Samoan club Lupe Ole Soaga SC had qualified for the tournament through the preliminary competition, but injuries prevented them from fielding a full squad and all of their matches were considered null and void, with the opposing team receiving a 3-0 win.

Auckland City FC’s Dylan Manickum and Suva FC’s Dave Radrigai collide. OFC Champions League 2023, Suva FC v Auckland City FC, Soccer City Stadium, Luganville, Vanuatu, Wednesday 17th May 2023. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz

As such the decisive fixture to decide second place in the group was played on the final matchday, where Suva FC qualified for the semi-finals with a 2-0 victory over the Solomon Warriors. Group B proved hard-fought and tight, with all four clubs registering a win. AS Pirae remained the only unbeaten side though, defeating both Tiga Sport and Hekari United to secure top spot and progression to the semi-finals with seven points. Hosts Ifira Black Bird snuck into the final four alongside them, following a nervy 1-0 victory over Tiga Sport on the final matchday.

Ifira Black Bird FC’s Jean Robert Yelou and Ifira Black Bird FC’s Jordy Tasip. OFC Champions League 2023, Tiga Sport v Ifira Black Bird, VFF Freshwater Stadium, Port Vila, Vanuatu, Sunday 21st May 2023. Photo: Kirk Corrie / www.phototek.nz

In a competition first, neither semi-final could be decided within the ninety minutes, as Auckland City FC squeezed past hosts Ifira Black Bird in a penalty shoot-out after finishing 2-2 at the end of extra-time. Suva FC joined them by overcoming AS Pirae 4-2 after extra-time with two goals from Azariah Soromon proving decisive to qualify for their first OFC Champions League final.

The final couldn’t be decided within normal time either, as Auckland City FC were again forced to dig deep to beat Suva FC 4-2 after extra-time in the final at a rocking VFF Freshwater Stadium. Ryan De Vries scored twice, along with goals from Angus Kilkolly and Cameron Howieson, countering strikes from Alex Saniel and Marlon Tahioa for Suva, and inspiring Auckland City FC to a second straight and 11th OFC Champions League title overall.

Auckland City FC’s Angus Kilkolly celebrates his goal from the spot. OFC Champions League 2023, Final, Auckland City FC v Suva FC, VFF Freshwater Stadium, Port Vila, Vanuatu, Saturday 27th May 2023. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz

De Vries received the golden boot for his five goals across the event, whilst Cameron Howieson was awarded the golden ball for the best player of the tournament.