Tahiti finds its champions

AS Venus and AS Dragon will represent Tahiti in the 2018 OFC Champions League. Credit: SB/FTF

Tahiti’s Ligue 1 came to a thrilling climax this week when the top four clubs, Tefana, Central Sport, Venus and Dragon, played off at Stade Pater for a place in the 2018 OFC Champions League with Venus and Dragon taking the coveted prize.

The biggest shock of the evening was a 3-2 win for AS Venus which halted AS Tefana from making their fourth straight appearance in Oceania’s premier international club competition. In the encounter between Dragon and Central the two sides were almost impossible to separate with Dragon eventually taking the Champions League berth with a 3-2 penalty-shootout win after being locked at 2-2 after extra time.

Venus and Dragon will now meet in the championship final in a bid to claim the domestic title, but do so knowing their place in next year’s Champions League is secure which relieves some of the pressure.

In the evening’s opening semi-final the competition leaders and 2017 OFC Champions League semi-finalists Tefana took on Venus.

It had been a tough lead-up for Tefana who not only lost the two-legged Champions League semi-final 4-0 on aggregate to eventual champions Auckland City, but also lost the services of leading striker Sylvain Graglia.

Venus, coached by Sam Garcia, opened the scoring in the 26th minute, but just ahead of the half-time break Tefana struck back with an equaliser courtesy of Temarii Tinorua. After a relatively dull first 45 minutes, the second half provided much more entertainment for fans.

An excellent passage of play from Venus in the 57th minute resulted in Tahiti international Teaonui Tehau netting to give his side the lead once again. The captain then had his brace in the 70th minute as he extended Venus’ lead.

Heavy pressing from Tefana kept the Venus backline busy and they gave their all to keep their opponent at bay, however could do little when Jonathan Tehau sent in an effort from distance in the 87th minute.

Ever so slightly favoured after a decent debut Champions League campaign, Central Sport had the difficult task of taking on Dragon, a side which signalled their intent to return to the regional tournament with a strike in the fourth minute from captain Tamatoa Tetauira opening the scoring.

Chilian Cesar Ortiz, pulled Central back in line in the 37th minute and just before the break, scored again to give his side a 2-1 lead.

Central had a number of opportunities that went amiss throughout the second half before Dragon were eventually able to pull even in the 63rd minute. Just before the signal to end regular time, Dragon found themselves down a man after Hubert Tauha received a red card.

In extra time they lost yet another player – defender Clyde Tiniau – who was sent off just before the final whistle.

A suspenseful penalty shootout eventually fell in 3-2 in Dragon’s favour to see them through to the OFC Champions League for the first time since 2014.

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