Lining up against each other in the semi-finals of the OFC Champions League for the second year in-a-row, AS Magenta and Team Wellington both have very different ideas about how tomorrow’s first leg match should go.
A dominant performance from the Wellingtonians and two goals from talismanic striker Tom Jackson was enough to see off their Francophone opponents a year ago.
However, with the new format of the region’s premier international club competition turning the semi-finals into a home-and-away play-off neither team can afford to drop a beat including the newly crowned domestic champions.
After beating regional title-holders Auckland City FC in last weekend’s Premiership final, Jose Figuiera’s charges will be liking their chances of repeating that success in New Caledonia.
But the coach wants the side to remain vigilant and not fall into the trap of thinking qualification for the final is a done deal.
“It’s always the danger,” he said of the potential to become complacent and buy into the hype that it will be another all-New Zealand regional final.
“But a lot of people were saying last week that we’d secured our Champions League spot for next year and while [Sunday] was a final, it didn’t really mean anything.
“But it was great to see the boys went out and gave it their all, took it to Auckland and got out with the positive result.”
For their opponents, the domestic league has begun since they secured their place in the semi-finals which adds a new element for their opponents to consider. Magenta topped Group A despite with the full complement of points, without having played any matches since the season finished in 2016.
They may only be three matches into the season, but they’ve already notched up ten goals while conceding just twice to give the side a healthy goal average.
Coach Alain Moizan is completely focused on the task at hand tomorrow – victory at home and no goals conceded in order to put them in the best possible position come the away leg in Wellington.
He said the long-term goal of the club is to win the OFC Champions League in four to five year, an objective they’ve had for the past two years.
The side has gone from qualifying for the regional competition, to making the semi-finals twice in-a-row, and Moizan believes the next step is not out of their reach.
“The logical progression is for us to be in the final,” he said.
“I think that my players will put themselves, as they often do, at the level of their opponent, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Then we also know the cost of conceding goals at home, in these home-and-away matches, and we’re at home first so we need to be very attentive.
AS Magenta vs. Team Wellington
Stade Numa Daly
Noumea, New Caledonia
Saturday 8 April
AS Magenta [NCL]
Vital Statistics: AS Magenta have not made the final of the OFC Champions League since 2005 when they lost to Sydney FC 2-0 in what was then the Oceania Club Championship.
The Players: Without doubt the game knowledge that Nicholas Marin brings from his experience in France’s Ligue 1 will be indispensable. That said, the side has a string of youngsters coming through including Joseph Athale and Didier Simane who will bring strengths of their own to the squad.
Coach Quote: “I hope that our exuberance in the centre of the part plays in our favour, even if we have less impact than last season in the midfield. We are fit, physically, but we also need to be on form with the mastering of our technique.”
AS Magenta: 1. Steeve IXOEE (GK), 2. Jean-Christ WAJOKA, 3. Jean Brice WADRIAKO, 4. Gregory TARAMOIN, 5. Jeremie DOKUNENGO, 6. Kevin MAITRAN, 7. Joseph ATHALE, 8. Tado WELEPANE 9. Gwena POULAWA, 11. Kevin NEMIA, 12. Yorick IEKAWE, 13. Yorick HNAUTRA, 14. Nicholas MARIN, 15. Didier SIMANE, 16. Eric HENESSEWENE, 17. Pierrot JELEWED,18. Wilsen POAMENO,19. Marek AUCHER, 20. Bill NICHOLLS, 21. Kevin LOLOHEA, 29. Victor MESSEAUD (GK), 30. Mickael ULILE (GK)
Suspended: 10. Joerisse CEXOME
Coach: Alain MOIZAN (FRA)
Team Wellington [NZL]
Vital Statistics: Team Wellington have made the final in every edition of the OFC Champions League they have participated in since making their regional debut at the 2015 edition.
The Players: Scott Basalaj picked up the Golden Gloves in the 2016 edition of the competition and his form will be key to keeping Magenta at bay. Also in strong form are strikers Tom Jackson and Ben Harris who will be out to score and give their side an away goal advantage going into the second leg in Wellington.
Coach Quote: “As much as you talk about a good culture and the team bonding going way in the group stage of the Champions League, winning things also brings about an added level of belief and energy and enthusiasm from the squad. The last few month have been a huge catalyst for that.”
Team Wellington: 1. Scott BASALAJ (GK), 2. Justin GULLEY, 3. Omrie SAOLELE, 4. Guillermo MORETTI, 5. Bill ROBERTSON, 6. Taylor SCHRIJVERS, 7. Leo VILLA, 8. Cole PEVERLEY, 9. Tom JACKSON, 10. Nathanael HAILEMARIAM, 11. Mario BARCIA, 12. Andy BEVIN, 13. Roland BALA, 14. Billy SCOTT, 15. Joel STEVENS, 16. Ben HARRIS, 17. Sam BLACKBURN, 18. Nicolas ZAMBRANO, 19. Joshua MARGETTS, 20. Nicholas EDGINTON, 21. Niko KIRWAN, 22. Adam MCDONALD (GK)
Coach: Jose FIGUEIRA (ENG)