Team Wellington are set to host the first-ever OFC Champions League match to be held in New Zealand’s capital and the two-time runners-up are hoping to make it a memorable one.
The Capital-men will welcome New Caledonia club AS Magenta to David Farrington Park on Sunday for the second leg of the 2017 OFC Champions League semi-finals.
A week earlier at Stade Numa Daly in Noumea, the first leg of the home-and-away semi-finals proved a thrilling match from start to finish as both sides mixed physicality with quality technique to finish level with a 2-2 draw.
Although it meant a share of the points, for Team Wellington it was also two away goals that could prove crucial for the return leg.
“Obviously in context they need to come and score at least two goals so we have a small buffer,” Figuiera said.
“But they’ve shown that they have some players who can open up the game at any moment so we have to take that into consideration.”
It has been a long season for Team Wellington, who lifted the domestic Premiership title only a few weeks ago, but Figueira is confident the side still has it in them to make it to the final, and even qualify for their first FIFA Club World Cup.
“One of the most pleasing qualities of the team this season has been the belief, character and fighting spirit within the group,” he said.
“As a coach I feel very proud to see the players go out every week and leave everything out on the field, putting the team and club before themselves.
“We’ve had a very big few weeks, we’ve had some big wins and went picking up the title again the other week. The draw in Noumea was certainly a good reminder for us that we need to keep our levels and our standards really high.”
While a draw was an improvement on the results of the semi-final a year earlier for Magenta, coach Alain Moizan believes an even bigger hurdle now awaits his side in Wellington.
“It’s very complicated. We need to win, we need three points,” Moizan said.
“It will be incredibly difficult.
“Even if we had won the game 1-0 it would have been tough, but now it’s even tougher.”
The former France international is referring to the away goals rule, which is one of the reasons why he was keen to avoid conceding goals at home.
With Wellington having gained a potential advantage with the two goals they scored at Numa Daly, Moizan knows his side will have to be at their best come Sunday.
While Magenta have already bettered the result of 2016 against the same opponents, Moizan is weary to make any claims of immense progress from his side.
“I think last year we were very strong in pressing, much stronger than this year. But we didn’t have as many chances,” he said.
“Here we had some very good chances and unfortunately weren’t able to convert them into goals so we will see in the second match, what the score is and how we conduct ourselves.”
Team Wellington vs. AS Magenta
David Farrington Park
Wellington, New Zealand
Sunday 16 April
Team Wellington [NZL]
Vital Statistics: Two important away goals at Stade Numa Daly in the first leg of the semi-finals has given Team Wellington an advantage ahead of the return leg at home.
The Players: Joel Stevens was impressive in the first leg doing some great ball recuperation, opening up space and looking threatening on attack.
Coach Quote: “We’ve done our homework on them and we’ve had a close up look at what they’re all about now. Like them, we have to use our home as an advantage – familiar surroundings with a good support behind us and getting back to what we’re good at.”
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, 23. James McPEAKE (GK)
Coach: Jose FIGUEIRA (ENG)
AS Magenta [NCL]
Vital Statistics: Magenta will need an outright victory, or a minimum of two away goals if the match is a draw, in order to progress to the OFC Champions League final for the first time since 2005.
The Players: Shene Welepane stepped up in the first leg with some excellent attacking football that really opened up the game and created chances for Magenta. Kevin Nemia and Nicolas Marin combined well on attack to provide a front-line threat but they will need to make more from those chances in Leg 2.
Coach Quote: “In football things can be very surprising and the equaliser at the end of the first match gave us some hope.”
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. Shene WELEPANE 9. Gwenael POULAWA, 10. Joerisse CEXOME, 11. Kevin NEMIA, 12. Yorick IEKAWE, 13. Yorick HNAUTRA, 14. Nicolas 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. Mikael ULILE (GK)
Coach: Alain MOIZAN (FRA)