Team Wellington have secured their passage to the final eight of Oceania’s premier club competition in style with a record 13-0 dismantling of Kiwi FC on Match Day 2 of the OFC Champions League at Port Vila’s Korman Stadium.
Meanwhile hosts Erakor Golden Star and Fijian giants Ba were forced to settle for a dramatic draw, leaving the fate of both to be decided on the final Match Day.
In the opening match, Kiwi set themselves up with a high defensive line to try and frustrate Team Wellington but it wasn’t long before the reigning champions took control, exploiting Martin Tamasese’s side down both flanks.
After nine minutes, Wellington’s first goal arrived when Henry Cameron found himself in acres of space on the right and following some good combination play, Nathan Hailemariam was at the back post to tap in Ross Allen’s cross.
Hailemariam had his second four minutes later with a composed finished after Cameron had again beaten the offside trap and delivered into the penalty area.
Joel Stevens and Taylor Schrijvers then combined on the opposite flank – Schrivjers setting up the predatory Ross Allen, who coolly slotted the ball past Eti Fatu.
Cameron was giving Kiwi left back Kitiona Nauer a torrid time and he again found space, teeing up Allen for his second.
Moments later, Cameron made it five with an angled strike from the edge of the box.
Lionel Taylor provided Kiwi’s sole ripost in a one-sided first half – his well struck shot from distance flying just wide of Marcel Kampman’s right hand upright.
Wellington made it 6-0 just before the break when Hailemariam completed his hat trick after pouncing on a Kiwi defensive error.
Jose Figueira’s side continued their monopoly of the ball in the second half, but it wasn’t until the 59th minute that they added to their tally. This time it was Hailemariam’s turn to spring the offside trap and he squared for Allen to complete his hat trick into another empty net.
Allen had his fourth moments later with a powerful header from Cameron’s cross and his fifth immediately followed, when he tapped in once again after good work from the dynamic Hailemariam.
Joel Stevens was then rewarded for an excellent afternoon’s work, volleying home Wellington’s tenth goal in the 68th minute.
Stevens then turned provider, crossing for substitute Daniel Mulholland who finished from a tight angle.
Moments later, the rampant Allen had everyone reaching for the record books following an unstoppable drive past the overworked Fatu.
In the dying moments, Mulholland topped off a superb cameo with perhaps the goal of the match, his spectacular half-volley flying into the top left-hand corner via the upright and stanchion bar.
Prior to the match, Figueira had made a point of emphasising the importance of using the wider squad in a tournament and was delighted with the way his players answered the call.
“I thought the boys were really professional again and it was nice to see the guys who came in today make an impact as well. It was a really good team effort today.”
He reserved a special mention for six goal hero Ross Allen.
“Ross is another example of a wider squad member coming in and doing his job against a team that sits very deep. He took his chances when they came and I’m very happy for him and the team.”
A disconsolate Kiwi coach Tamasese admitted his team was outplayed by a far superior side.
“We knew that Team Wellington is not an easy team to beat, and while we came prepared, we have to take the result and we have no excuse.”
“Now we have to focus on the next match.”
In the late game, Erakor had slightly the better of the opening exchanges as they looked to bring reinstated playmaker Jacky Ruben into the game. The first clear cut chance fell to the locals when Tony Kaltack flicked on for Barry Mansale but the midfielder’s weak header was easily gathered by Ba goalkeeper Misiwani Nairube.
Ba grew into their work, and their direct approach and ability to pick up second balls provided some difficult moments for Erakor’s centre back paring of Jason Thomas and Diego Galvo. On the half hour mark, Galvo found himself caught in possession, and his subsequent foul almost cost Erakor dearly – Ba skipper Malakai Tiwa’s free kick from a handy position striking the base of the post.
Moments later Mansale rose again, this time heading over from a well-directed free kick from Michel Coulon.
Just as the half looked to be petering out, Erakor’s goal arrived, and it was well worth the wait. Jacky Ruben found himself in space on the right and curved a perfectly weighted ball to Tony Kaltack, who volleyed home brilliantly. After not starting the first match, the two local heroes had perhaps vindicated their selection, and the stadium erupted.
Immediately after the restart, Mansale again made a nuisance of himself in the box and won Erakor a penalty. But the otherwise impressive Kaltfer Kaltack squandered a gilt-edged opportunity for his team, striking his low spot kick beyond the left hand upright.
Immediately the game opened up as Ba went in search of the equaliser and just before the hour, Abbu Zahid broke through to go one on one with Erakor goalkeeper Serge Daniel. Unfortunately for the Men in Black, the front man could only lift the bouncing ball onto the roof of Daniel’s net.
After 77 minutes however, Ba’s endeavour was finally rewarded, when substitute Avinesh Suwamy equalised with a long range low drive.
Erakor weren’t finished and there was more drama in stoppage time, when they won another penalty following a goalmouth skirmish. Skipper Thomas stepped up to secure his side’s place in the quarter finals but Nairube was the hero, diving to his left to beat out the kick.
A rueful Erakor coach Benjamin Noel lamented his side’s inability to convert two penalty kicks but was positive about his team’s overall performance.
“We should have scored at least three goals tonight, but sometimes the pressure of the crowd and the expectations can have an impact on players’ psychology. But I felt the boys improved from the first game and played really well against a tough Ba team. ”
Ba’s Ronil Kumar meanwhile, was delighted his side were able to keep their quarter final dreams well and truly alive.
“We had a lot of chances and we could have scored but I’m really happy with the draw. Even though we were a goal behind at half time, they boys never lost hope. We knew if we kept on going and kept on trying that a goal would come.”
Kumar also saluted goalkeeper Nairube’s penalty heroics.
“He played his heart out and he proved that he is the number one goalkeeper for Ba.”