A sensational 60 metre strike by substitute Amy Antoine Roine sealed a historic first ever regional title for New Caledonia’s Hienghéne Sports in an epic OFC Champions League final in Noumea this evening.
Roine’s audacious long ranger was the decisive moment the final deserved, and will go down as one of the great moments in OFC Champions League history.
The man who orchestrated this victory, Felix Tagawa is elated with the result.
“It’s a huge moment for the club, and for the country too. I hope that it will continue, we know we’ve won, what we’ve done in winning this match. It’s been a long journey, today we were patient, we know how to bounce back.” Hienghene coach said.
A scintillating showdown was predicted and that’s exactly what the huge crowd at Stade Numa Daly got, with both sides taking a very positive approach and attacking with verve in an exciting, open match.
“I looked at the stand opposite me at one point in the match and I was really overwhelmed” Tagawa recalled
“It’s really quite beautiful to see so many people, there’s nothing else to say. We don’t really have words, we managed to control the game right till the end, we didn’t lose it at all, we played our game and this is the result” he added.
Magenta started the brighter and looked to control the match, enjoying the lion’s share of possession in the first half. But Hienghéne were always dangerous on the counter attack, with skipper Bertrand Kai and Jefferson Dacite a constant threat up front.
Golden Ball award recipient, Kai, said its incredible to be able to offer such experience to the kids.
“This is why we play football, to offer some joy to people, to encourage the kids. We have to continue working, the road is still long.” He said.
Both sides created and squandered chances, as play went from end to end. Rocky Nyikeine’s excellent save from Magenta’s Jean Christ Wajoka’s powerful volley was perhaps the highlight of an extremely entertaining first half.
The second period was an equally open affair – with both sides again very positive on attack. Neither though, seemed able to find a moment of quality to break the deadlock.
On the hour mark however, Hienghéne coach Felix Tagawa made his first substitution and it proved to be a master stroke. Six minutes after entering the fray, substitute Roine collected a clearance from well inside his own half, spotted Magenta goalkeeper Steeve Ioxee off his line, and let fly from behind the centre circle. Ioxee was stranded and could only watch helplessly as the ball sailed over his head and into the back of the net to give Hienghéne the lead.
“Any player, whether on the field or not, is important and we were clear that they couldn’t just be spectators. He showed that he listened, he scored a great goal and we had an impressive goalkeeper too. It was a great final.” Tagawa said.
A stunned Magenta went in search of the equaliser and it should have come in the 71st minute, but Nyiekene was again the hero, saving from point-blank range from Wilsen Poameno.
As Magenta became stretched, Hienghéne enjoyed more possession and continued to create chances of their own, but they also showed the kind of defensive solidity that wins finals. In particular the immense midfield pairing of Roy Kayara came to the fore, Kayara’s experience and leadership drove his team towards the final whistle, while Sansot’s presence in aerial duels was phenomenal.
But if anyone, it was Nyiekene who was the standout – the Golden Glove winner pulling off multiple saves in the dying stages – seeing his team through to a stunning and well-deserved victory.
“Of course I’m really touched to be elected the best goalkeeper. You have to be prepared for matches like this and I was.”
“For now, no, I don’t think it’s sunk in that we’ve qualified for the Club World Cup. Maybe later, but right now, no.” Nyiekene concluded.