Western United have drawn a tough opener against hosts Auckland City FC as they make their return to the OFC Champions League on the first day of action in Group C at Mangere Centre Park in Auckland on 11 March.
The Solomon contenders were dominated by the Navy Blues 3-0 when the two club sides last met in the 2015 OFC Champions League, but Western United coach Commins Menapi is determined and confident that his side will prove a more competitive opponent in their 4pm rematch.
“So far everything is good and the boys are looking forward to the first game,” Menapi said.
“We know that this is their home ground which will make it more difficult for us but we will try to do everything possible to win. We need to keep a strong mind-set and good concentration.
“Auckland will be a good team to play and we want to go out there and enjoy the game and give everything.”
With six consecutive OFC Champions League titles under their belt, Auckland City FC are eager to add a seventh, but coach Ramon Tribulietx is approaching the competition one match at the time which means preparing for a tough challenge against Western United’s unique style of football.
“We’ve been competing a lot lately so we’ve got a good reading and are feeling good playing our football but now we’ve got to switch from the New Zealand football style to what’s coming up tomorrow,” he said.
“They’re a very skilful team that you can’t take lightly because if you start the game a little bit under, they have the quality to kill you in one transition.
“Playing a team tomorrow like Western United, full of very good players, a very skilful team, it’s going to be difficult but I think in regards to how we’re playing, we’re in a good moment. We’ve just got to make sure we compete well tomorrow.”
In the opening match for Group C at 1pm, Vanuatu’s Malampa Revivors will meet Papua New Guinea’s Lae City Dwellers in their battle to earn an early lead on the ladder.
With Malampa Revivors coach Percy Avock yet to arrive in Auckland, assistant coach Steven Ham has taken the reins for their final Auckland-based team trainings leading up to match.
Despite Avock’s absence, Ham is confident in the side after the commitment and discipline they have displayed during his brief stint at the helm.
“We have been working so hard and I’m sure we are now prepared for the first game in front of us,” he said.
“We know that Lae City Dwellers have already participated once in the Champions League, and this will be their second time, but we will try our best to play for our colours and our team. We know that they are very strong but we have been preparing hard for that.”
“We have enough strength and fitness, and we have a good strategy for the game in front of us.”
After finishing bottom of their group in last year’s OFC Champions League, Lae City Dwellers have returned to Auckland seeking redemption, and coach Peter Gunemba believes the side is more prepared than ever to claim to win against their Ni-Vanuatu opponents.
“We went to Fiji last week and had two friendly matches against the two Fijian teams, and it really boosted our morale when we won both games. Then we played a local team here last night which has also boosted our confidence,” he said.
“Malampa is a new team to us and I don’t know how they play or what kind of players are in there and the style of football they play. We’ll just have to go in and see how we play against them.
“I don’t know the other team’s strength and weaknesses but I know we have fast, young players in the team. We are very fast and our style of play is very fast, and we are prepared to face any team.”
Malampa Revivors vs. Lae City Dwellers
Mangere Centre Park
Auckland, New Zealand
Saturday 11 March
Malampa Revivors [VAN]
Vital Statistics: The 2017 OFC Champions League will be Malampa Revivors’ debut in the premier regional tournament. With no national team players on the team list, the team will be eager to give everything in their first experience on the international field.
The Players: Andre Batick will be a force to watch up front after proving dangerous in front of goal throughout Malampa Revivors’ 2015 domestic campaign. The striker scored the only goal of their semi-final match in the TVL National Super League which saw them through to the final where they fell short to former domestic champions Amicale FC.
Assistant Coach Quote: “We know that Lae City Dwellers have already participated once in the Champions League, and this will be their second time, but we will try our best to play for our colours and our team. We know that they are very strong but we have been preparing hard for that. We have enough strength and fitness, and we have a good strategy for the game in front of us.”
Malampa Revivors: 1. Jimmy LUKAI (GK), 2. Anthony MAAN, 3. Ismael SAM, 4. Greg BANI, 5. Dondy KILETEIR, 6. Walla JACOM, 7. Samson WAMILY, 8. John ALICK, 9. Esly JAPHET, 10. Ismael EDWARD, 11. Andre BATICK, 12. Marcelin PILOE, 13. Pedro WIS, 14. Nos KENNETH, 15. Remy TIMAS, 16. Michael HURI, 17. Edwin BAI, 18. Pierre MALERE, 19. Alex NALESSABONG, 20. Naruel MALIU (GK), 21. Samuel WAMILY, 22. Trevor LENGA, 23. Brian IAVRO
Coach: Percy AVOCK (VAN)
Assistant Coach: Steven HAM (VAN)
Lae City Dwellers [PNG]
Vital Statistics: Lae City Dwellers appeared in last year’s OFC Champions League in Auckland, New Zealand. The side finished at the bottom of their competitive group after losses to New Zealand’s Auckland City FC, Vanuatu’s Amicale FC, and Solomon Islands’ Solomon Warriors.
The Players: Goalkeeper Ronald Warisan’s quick gloves contributed to Papua New Guinea’s historical OFC Nations Cup campaign last year, with his impressive saves keeping his nation in the running for the title all the way to a penalty shootout in the final against New Zealand.
Coach Quote: “I don’t know the other team’s strength and weaknesses but I know we have fast, young players in the team. We are very fast and our style of play is very fast, and we are prepared to face any team.”
Lae City Dwellers: 1. Ronald WARISAN (GK), 2. Kenneth PILAILO, 3. Valentine NELSON, 4. Goropaul ALBERT, 5. Mosie MILUBWA, 6. Troy GUNEMBA, 7. Raymond GUNEMBA, 8. Alex KAMEN, 9. George KOREI, 10. Obert BIKA, 11. Adolf NAIDU, 12. Matthew DAVID, 13. John KICHANI, 14. Emmanuel SIMON, 15. Ken KEPE, 16. Japhet TIAMPO, 17. Billson BULLO, 18. Peter DABINYABA JNR, 19. Moses KAMAKENG, 20. Matheson NASA (GK), 21. Kiwa TEPO, 22. George DEBENHAM
Coach: Peter Gunemba (PNG)
Western United vs. Auckland City FC
Mangere Centre Park
Auckland, New Zealand
Saturday 11 March
Western United [SOL]
Vital Statistics: Western United’s last appearance in the OFC Champions League was in 2015 where the side finished bottom of their group after losses to New Zealand’s Auckland City FC, Vanuatu’s Amicale FC, and Fiji’s Suva FC. The club fell short of qualification in 2016 but have high hopes of redemption in the 2017 edition.
The Players: Benjamin Totori is among the horde of national team players taking the field for Western United at the OFC Champions League. Totori contributed to Solomon Islands qualification into the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ – OFC Stage 3 qualifiers with his dominant performance up front at the 2016 OFC Nations Cup in Port Moresby last May.
Coach Quote: “Playing Auckland City is a big deal for the boys. We know that Auckland City are the team to beat so we are fully focused on that game and everything is going well at the moment.”
Western United: 1. Fabrizio PRATTICO (GK), 2. Aleck WICKHAM, 3. George KAKAI, 4. Cecil BURU, 5. Freddie KINI, 6. Matson FENI, 7. Paul WALE, 8. Henry FAARODO, 9. Benjamin TOTORI, 10. Atana FAARODO, 11. Joachim WAROI, 12. Anderson DOEDOKE, 13. James NAKA, 14. Moffat KILIFA, 15. Brian PETER, 16. Gagame FENI, 17. Nelson SALE, 18. Nicholas TARAITO, 19. Lenson BISILI, 20. Anthony TALO (GK), 21. Abraham MAEZAMA, 22. Joses NAWO, 23. Molis GAGAME
Coach: Commins MENAPI (SOL)
Auckland City FC [NZL]
Vital Statistics: New Zealand’s Auckland City FC have won a total of eight OFC Champions League competitions and will be battling for their seventh consecutive title in the 2017 edition.
The Players: Clayton Lewis will be a player to mark throughout the Group Stage, with his international experience giving the 20-year-old a mature outlook on the game and his agility and accuracy making him hard to catch in the midfield. The All White has represented New Zealand throughout the age groups, recently participating in the 2016 OFC U-20 Championship, the 2016 OFC Nations Cup, and the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ OFC Stage 3 Qualifiers, and he recently represented the region with Auckland City FC at the 2016 FIFA World Club Cup.
Coach Quote: “Playing a team tomorrow like Western United, full of very good players, a very skilful team, it’s going to be difficult but I think in regards to how we’re playing, we’re in a good moment. We’ve just got to make sure we compete well tomorrow.”
Auckland City FC: 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 2. Harshae RANIGA, 3. Takuya IWATA, 4. Mario BILEN, 5. Angel BERLANGA, 6. Cameron 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, 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)