The OFC Champions League 2023 main draw is officially taking shape after the completion of the New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea National Play-Off second leg fixtures.
Tiga Sport will be New Caledonia’s representative at the after defeating Hienghène Sport 2-0 in Nouméa.
For Papua New Guinea, Hekari United will fly the flag after their 2-0 over Lae City FC in Port Moresby.
Meanwhile, Tahiti’s National Play-Off is underway, with AS Pirae taking a 2-0 win over AS Dragon in their first leg fixture.
Tiga strike early to advance
Tiga came off a 3-1-win last weekend at Stade Numa Daly, the same venue for the second leg.
Even though they had a two-goal cushion, Tiga were in no mood to simply sit back and defend their way to victory. A break inside the first three minutes leading to a shot by Shane Welepane being well-saved by Hienghène goalkeeper Rocky Nykiene. Emmanuel Kayara picked up a yellow in the ninth minute, after that Hienghène got a great chance of their own through Amy Roine.
However, the breakneck pace meant that it wasn’t going to be long before a goal was to be scored, with Tiga’s Morgan Mathelon coolly sliding a shot past Nykeine from just outside the top of the penalty area.
It was always going to be a mountain to climb for Hienghène after that, made even steeper when Welepane slotted home from the tightest of angles to make it 2-0. Hienghène’s best chance of the first half was a well-struck free kick by Fonzy Ranchain that ricocheted off the cross bar.
Tiga coach Leonardo Lopes had clearly instructed his side to play a holding game in the second half, as chances dried up at both ends. However, Weleplane almost snuck a third after his chip shot just cleared the bar, but the last bit of drama came when Hienghène veteran Betrand Kai was shown a straight red card for a last-ditch challenge on Cyril Drawilo.
In the end it was all academic, as Tiga sealed the win 5-1 on aggregate.
TIGA SPORT 2 (Morgan MATHELON 15’, Shane WELEPLANE 25’)
HIENGHÉNE SPORT 0
Hekari seal spot against Lae
Two late goals have seen Hekari United complete a 4-1 aggregate win over Papua New Guinea National Champions Lae City in the PNG Oceania Champions League National Playoffs.
Hekari led 2-1 after the first leg in Lae and have won the second leg 2-0 in Port Moresby.
Midfielder Yagi Yasasa who scored in the first leg last week, pounced on a through ball in the 83rd minute to scramble the opening goal before Joseph Joe sealed the result with a tap in three minutes from full time.
Unlike in the first leg in Lae, Hekari keeper Christinus Biasu was rarely tested and Hekari controlled the game.
The result sees Hekari United advance to the Oceania Champions League tournament to be staged in Vanuatu in May.
HEKARI UNITED 2 (Yagi YASASA 83’ Joseph JOE 87’)
LAE CITY 0
Pirae down league leaders Dragon
Tahiti’s top clubs battled it out in the first leg of their OFC Champions League 2023 National Play-Off in Papeete, with AS Pirae taking a valuable 2-0 advantage over AS Dragon into next weekend’s second match.
Both teams played a cagey game to start off, with chances few and far between at Stade Pater. That was certainly a change of pace for Pirae, who had scored an incredible 36 goals in their last five league fixtures.
The game burst into life shortly after halftime, however, when Pirae’s Ariiura Labaste opened the scoring in spectacular fashion. After a nice counterattack, the ball was lobbed back for the striker to connect with a diving header to make the score 1-0.
Dragon almost equalised with a curling free kick by Mu Francois hit the post.
Pirae kept knocking on the door, with great chances that were finally converted. The 75th minute saw a perfect low cross that just couldn’t connect with any of the Pirae front line’s outstretched feet, then moments later Tevatini Teumere’s powerful shot drew a diving save by Dragon goalkeeper Anapa DeBruyne.
However, there was nothing DeBruyne could do off the resulting corner, when Paama Matatia climbed high to nod the ball in and double Pirae’s lead.
Dragon kept battling away but to no avail. Pirae will be very happy with this result against the league-leading Dragon, especially the way they organised their defence in the first half.
AS DRAGON 0
AS PIRAE 2 (Ariiura LABASTE, Paama MATATIA)