Nine times Oceania champions Auckland City edged past AS Magenta in a thrilling encounter.
It was a tale of two halves as Auckland FC held on to beat AS Magenta 2-1 on Match Day one of the OFC Champions League 2019 Group D stage at Lawson Tama Stadium.
In the first half Auckland City were clinical with their passing and ball possession, controlling the tempo of the game to the tune of two goals. In the second half, AS Magenta was the aggressor, winning the ball time and time again through aggressive pressure and going on the attack that had them cut the deficit in half. Auckland City’s coach, Ramon Tribulietx, was not too happy with his team’s second half performance, but was glad nonetheless for the win and the points that come with it.
“Obviously you’ve got to be happy with the three points. I think it was probably a game of two halves, in some respects, the first half we were very dominant, we had the ball for the most part of it,” he explained. “They were trying to stop us from going through the middle, and…we became a little too conservative just trying to keep the ball, but they were not coming out so it was one of those tricky games to play in that first half.”
AS Magenta’s coach, Alain Moizan praised Auckland and said that his team’s youth put them at a disadvantage.
“You know it’s difficult to play against Auckland, it’s a team that’s well organised, they’re well placed and they know exactly what needs to be done,” he said. “Unfortunately I’ve got certain players that are very young and they don’t know what it is to play at this level.”
Auckland FC found success threading the ball through Solomon Islander Micah Lea’alafa in the first half, as he was involved in both goals. Daniel Morgan blasted in Lea’alafa’s cross in the 4th minute, after a bit of fancy footwork from the Solomon Island native to avoid several defenders inside the penalty box.
Lea’alafa then he slotted in a shot that went over the head of goalie Steeve Ioxee in the 31st.
Moizan said that during their halftime talk he worked on his young players for a better second half showing.
“We had a lot to work on at half-time and we rectified that for the second half. We didn’t let the ball get in behind us, we pressed and they had to clear the ball which we were able to collect, we were pressing, we did what we needed to,” Moizan said.
“I think in the second half we probably struggled a bit with the weather, that’s the reality, we made some decisions in there with the ball that put us in some danger,” Tribulietx explained.
“There were a couple of counterattacks with us having the ball in the last quarter, losing the ball and then they transitioned and this is where Magenta can kill you, in transition, they’ve got those streaky players and they got that goal. We could have killed the game when we had that two vs. the keeper, to go through that without scoring this is football, they scored a goal within the last minute of the 90 and then in extra time.”
David Browne, in his first OFC Champions League game since 2016, had a 2-v-1 with Omar Guardiola against Magenta’s goalie. Browne passed to his teammate for an open shot at goal, but instead Guardiola passed it back to the surprised PNG international who then shot it harmlessly over the crossbar. Instead of looking at a 3-0 advantage, the game was still 2-0.
Unfortunately for Magenta, they ran out of time, their goal coming on 90+3 thanks to Richard Sele, who had played a great game for his team.
“We had a lot of chances in the second half, in the first half they could have put two more goals in, easily, while we probably deserved to equalise in the second half I think,” Moizan said.
“You’ve got to be happy with the effort, we knew we needed to be prepared to suffer because of the weather conditions and the skill they bring especially towards the end of the game, and again we got the three points so we have to be happy with that,” Tribulietx said.
Both coaches are now looking to the next round of games and are planning what they need to do.
“We have to play all three matches and I think for us it will come down to the last match,” Moizan pointed out. “Against Warriors the worst we can afford is a draw, but we’ll be out there to win. I think probably the final match will be important because it will possibly come down to goal difference to decide the teams which progress to the quarter finals.”
“We’ve got a lot of new players and a lot of young players this year, so we need to learn to manage these final 10 or 15 minutes of these games. We haven’t been able to kill the game and we have to make sure we don’t concede a late goal,” Tribulietx said. “This happened in New Zealand as well in the last game we played, again it’s a learning process and hopefully this is a good wake up call for us. Solomon Warriors and Tupapa, we don’t know too much about them but we’ll have a look now.”
Solomon Warriors started their first ever OFC Champions League campaign on home soil with a big win over preliminary stage qualifiers Tupapa Maraerenga.
The hosts started on the front foot with more of the ball possession as their opponents held firm in defense.
Ni-Vanuatu internationals John Alick and Kensi Tangis scored a goal apiece in the opening 20 minutes to set the proceeding for what unfolds in the entire game.
Defender Mii Joseph scored an own goal in the 34th minute before two more goals from Alwin Hou and Molea Tigi handed Solomon Warriors a 5-0 lead as both teams went into the sheds.
Solomon Warriors picked up where they left off in the first half as Tangis completes his brace with a deft header to make it 6-0.
Jerry Donga and substitute Harry Masae got on the score sheet moments before Grover Harmon scored a consolation goal for Tupapa Maraerenga to make it 8-1 heading into the final minutes of the game.
Augustine Samani and Allan Peter grabbed two more goals in stoppage time to hit double figures for the hosts.
Solomon Warriors coach Moses Toata praises his players for executing their game plan.
“First of all thank you to Tupapa for a great game today, my boys were focused on our game, we had worked on our game plan yesterday and I think my boys delivered what is expected of them,” he said.
“With the win of this margin, it sets us on the right track going into the second game on Wednesday. So as a coach, I am very happy of today’s performance.”
Tupapa Maraerenga coach Delaney Yoqona said lapse of concentration in defense cost his team the heavy defeat.
“The second half performances was much better than the first, I mean what really cost us in the first half was individual mistakes,” he said.
“But hats off to Solomon Warriors they really worked us around the field.
“The system was ok, the structure was there and it was just the individual mistakes.
“At this level of the Champions League you can’t be afford to making those mistakes, can’t afford to be sleeping in corners and set pieces, so it’s really hurt us in the first half, put us on the back foot but credit to my boys they came back, they got a goal and unfortunately leak a couple more after that which really made the game hard for us.”
Solomon Warriors and Auckland City both have three points after match day one but the hosts occupied top spot with a better goal average heading into match day two on Wednesday 27 February.