The new two-legged format of the OFC Champions League has offered AS Tefana a second chance in their semi-final this Sunday, but it will be do-or-die for the Tahitians as they try to catch Auckland City’s 2-0 lead.
Fighting back from two goals down at Kiwitea Street – Auckland City’s home ground – will be a massive physical and mental challenge for Tefana, but coach Sébastien Labayen is hopeful for a comeback.
“We are determined to reduce the gap and catch up to them,” he said
“We could see that during some sequences we could compete but we need to carry on working on those little things to make that step forward.”
With the Navy Blues well-familiar with the field, Labayen has been working hard to ensure Tefana is prepared to adapt to the different conditions.
“For this return match in Auckland, we’ve been working on a couple of things as the conditions are slightly different. The pitch is not as wide, not as long and the grass is better quality than what we have here.”
Playing at their home ground for the first time in this year’s competition despite having hosted a group, Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx is feeling positive ahead of the second leg, but is expecting another tough 90 minutes from Tefana.
“We understand the circumstances here. We know what kind of pitch we’re playing on, a very small pitch but it’s in very good condition which will be very good for our football,” he said.
“I’m expecting Tefana to come to Auckland to try and reverse the score. They’ll probably be very physical like they were in our last match and put some high pressure. It’s going to be a very difficult game.
“It’s only half time, half way through the semi-final so we need to stay calm and cool and make sure we’re ready for Sunday.”
Auckland City FC vs. AS Tefana
Auckland, New Zealand
Sunday 16 April
Auckland City FC
Vital Statistics: With a diverse team of players from New Zealand, Spain, Croatia, Japan, Britain, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Portugal, Solomon Islands, Argentina and Serbia, Auckland City possesses a breadth of experience from across the world, giving them a unique ability to understand and counter different styles of football.
The Players: After finding the net with a seemingly-effortless attempt in their first match, AS Tefana will have eyes on All White Clayton Lewis in their second encounter. The 20-year-old striker makes use of his speed and game understanding to position himself well during the build-up from the back, and he creates dangerous combinations up front with Joao Moreira, Micah Lea’alafa and Emiliano Tade.
Coach Quote: “I think our players are physically and mentally ready for these games. We proved that in the first match, and hopefully we keep proving it in the next 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)
AS Tefana [TAH]
Vital Statistics: AS Tefana’s only appearance in the OFC Champions League final was in the 2011-2012 edition of the competition. The first leg of the final was played at Kiwitea Street, the same venue as their fixture this weekend. Auckland City earned the upper-hand on home ground, defeating the Tahitians 2-1, before securing their title with a 1-0 win against Tefana in Tahiti.
The Players: Tunoa Tevaearai proved a hard worker in the last semi-final match, contributing across the field for the full 90 minutes. The midfielder tracked back to keep Auckland City away from goal for the entire first half and was also quick to counter attack, carrying the ball up the field and sending several dangerous crosses into the penalty area. With Tevaearai the boot behind Tefana’s free kicks, Auckland City goalkeeper Enaut Zubikarai was kept on his toes for the whole game.
Coach Quote: “Auckland City are very professional. We could see that during some sequences we could compete but we need to carry on working on those little things to make that step forward.”
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)