Defending champions Auckland City are eager to repeat history in the first leg of their OFC Champions League semi-final at Stade Pater in Papeete this Saturday, but AS Tefana are out for revenge after falling to the defending champions 4-2 at this same point a year ago.
Although they completely dominated Group C to qualify for the semi-final with nine points, Auckland City’s winning streak was cut short by a 2-1 loss to fellow OFC Champions League contenders Team Wellington in the New Zealand’s Premiership final last Sunday.
With critical errors costing Auckland City the domestic title for a second year in-a-row, coach Ramon Tribulietx has his full focus on drilling out those errors and establishing the right mind-set among his players ahead of their clash with the Tahitians.
“We’re a bit disappointed that we lost the Premiership final on Sunday. We can’t just go into these OFC Champions League games with that mentality, we need to be a bit more switched on in set pieces and critical situations,” he said.
“It will be a question mark whether we learnt the lesson coming into these two games against Tefana. They’re both going to be very difficult, especially the one in Tahiti.”
Familiar with the Tahitian club’s style of play, Tribulietx is expecting a gruelling challenge, especially in the first leg.
“We played them last year in the semi-final and they were a very competitive side. They looked to play the ball out from the back, and they do some similar things to what we do with the ball,” he said.
“We need to understand what they bring to the party, these teams from the islands, especially the Tahitians. They’re very physical, and playing at home I’m pretty sure they’ll be very motivated, they’ve always been very difficult at home.”
As the only team to continue through to the knockout stage without all three wins from the group stage, AS Tefana are determined to prove their place in the hunt for the title is deserved.
Despite last year’s defeat, drawing a semi-final fixture against the seven-time champions for a second consecutive year hasn’t phased coach Sébastien Labayen.
The former player turned coach believes his side is well-prepared and committed to making the most of their second chance.
“We’re feeling good, we’re really looking forward to playing because it’s what we’ve been preparing for over the last two years,” he said.
“Last year we conceded goals from set pieces. I think we’re better mentally this year so we will be better prepared to manage our emotions, thanks to the experience we’ve gained from previous Champions League campaigns.”
Although he’s heading into the game confident, Labayen is well aware that Tefana face a tough challenge trying to shut down Auckland City’s quality style of play.
“For me, it’s one of the best games, best ways to play, because it’s a game based on possession, keeping the ball on the ground, and the players are constantly moving around. We play the same way, but we’re trying to do it better,” he said.
“Club wise, it’s the top football in the Pacific, and that’s why we’re looking to it.”
AS Tefana vs. Auckland City FC
Saturday 8 April
AS Tefana [TAH]
Vital Statistics: AS Tefana will face Auckland City n the OFC Champions League semi-final for the second year in-a-row but unlike last year, the team continuing into this year’s final will be determined in a two-legged clash.
The Players: Sylvain Graglia not only showcased his talent up front for Tefana in Group D of the OFC Champions League, but also for the Tahiti national team in their recent 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying matches. Finding the net twice during their away leg against Papua New Guinea, the striker has already been identified as a threat by Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx.
“Sylvain Graglia up front is a stand out, he’s been looking very dangerous in one-on-one situations and he has the ability to play on both sides, he is a very dangerous player,” the Auckland City coach said.
Coach Quote: “Having a semi-final with both a home and away match, it will definitely be the best team who will qualify for the final.”
AS Tefana: 1. Stevens HIRIGA (GK), 2. Farearii TUTEINA, 3. Taumihau TIATIA, 4. Tehevarii LUDIVON, 5. Viritua TIAIHO, 6. Tunoa TEVAERAI, 7. Temarii TINORUA, 8. Jess HOROI, 9. Tehina TEMORERE, 10. Tautua LUCAS, 11. Sylvain GRAGLIA, 12. Alvin TEHAU, 13. Stanley ATANI, 14. Jonathan TEHAU, 15. Jean Claude CHANG KOEI CHANG, 16. Manutea TAAE, 18. Kaena ONUU, 19. Heimano BOUREBARE, 22. Nicolas VALLAR, 23. Moana PITO (GK), 25. Toriki GUYOT, 30. Lorenzo TEHAU
Coach: Sébastien LABAYEN (TAH)
Auckland City FC [NZL]
Vital Statistics: Their upcoming clash against AS Tefana is Auckland City’s seventh-consecutive appearance in the OFC Champions League semi-finals.
The Players: Emiliano Tade created countless opportunities for Auckland City and made a contribution to their nine points in the group stage of the competition. Tade’s agility and accuracy makes him an important player to close down no matter where he stands on the field.
Coach Quote: “They’re a team full of experience, they’re used to playing these kinds of games and obviously playing in Tahiti and playing at their home ground is going to make them try to be very positive and connected to try and beat us. They’re a good football team and we have to make sure that we understand how to play this game.”
Auckland City FC: 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 2. Harshae RANIGA, 3. Takuya IWATA, 4. Mario BILEN, 5. Angel BERLANGA, 6. Cam HOWIESON, 7. Reid DRAKE, 8. Albert RIERA, 9. Darren WHITE, 10. Ryan DE VRIES, 11. Fabrizio TAVANO, 13. Alfie ROGERS. 14. Clayton LEWIS, 15. Mario ILICH, 16. Daewook KIM, 17, Joao MOREIRA, 18. Danyon DRAKE (GK), 19. Micah LEA’ALAFA, 20. Emiliano TADE, 21. Harry EDGE, 22. Abdullah AL-KALISY, 23. Marko DORDEVIC, 24. Jacob SPOONLEY (GK)
Coach: Ramon TRIBULIETX (ESP)