Two draws were the outcomes of the first leg of the Oceania Champions League semi finals.
It was close, it was nervy, and it ended in draws. That’s the best way to describe the two Champions League matches that were played out on Sunday in Wellington and Lautoka.
Let’s start with the all-New Zealand match.
The two powerhouses Team Wellington and Auckland City clashed at David Farrington Park and what happens in football when an unstoppable force meets and immovable object?
You get a 0-0 draw.
The no-goals scoreline was not for lack of trying on the attackers part though, rather it was some excellent goalkeeping from two of the regions finest shotstoppers in Wellington’s Scott Basalaj and Auckland’s Enaut Zubikarai who kept the sides level.
Brilliant saves from both keepers saw chances from otherwise goal hungry attackers such as Emiliano Tade and Angus Kilkolly go to waste and despite Team Wellington having perhaps the better of the chances, the scoreline remained the way it started at the beginning of the game.
After the match neither coach was disappointed nor were they very happy with the result.
“We said earlier in the week, it’s not just one match. It’s 180 minutes of a semi-final and we’re only half way through it now,” Team Wellington coach José Manuel Figueira told the OFC.
“I think today we gave absolutely everything and it was a shame we didn’t take one of the clear cut chances we had to give us an advantage going into next week’s match.”
Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx had this to say to the OFC:
“I’m happy with the effort and the way we competed.
“We know the difficulties of travelling down here. We didn’t get an away goal which is not good for us, but the way we competed in the game, especially in the moments were it became very even, very transitional, we were good.
“We also didn’t concede and that’s important too.”
Watch full highlights of Team Wellington 0 – 0 Auckland City here:
Over in Fiji, home side Lautoka was hoping to use Churchill Park to their advantage and secure a good position ahead of the next match, but instead it was the away side, Marist from the Solomon Islands, who had most cause to cheer after the game.
It started in dramatic fashion as Marist goalkeeper Anthony Talo collided with Lautoka’s man-mountain Osea Vakatalesau and landed hard on his right foot as they both went for a cross after only four minutes of play.
After seven minutes of treatment, Talo had to be stretchered off and Marist were forced to make a very early substitution as reserve goalkeeper Harold Nauania was thrown to the wolves.
When play resumed there were plenty of good chances to both sides, including a Lautoka shot that hit the post, but it was Marist who broke the deadlock.
A blocked shot from Mathias Iani from outside the box somehow found its way over to Davidson Tome who made no mistake alone against Lautoka’s goalkeeper Beniamino Mateinaqara and put the Solomon Islanders in front after 36 minutes with a great strike.
Marist managed to hold onto the lead going into half time but it wouldn’t take long into the second half before Lautoka managed to draw level.
Only three minutes were played of the second half when Lautoka got a corner and quite reminiscent of how they managed to get to the semi final, Kiwi Cory Chettleburgh swung a corner into the box and Vakatalesau rose above everyone else to get his head to the ball and send it into the back of the net.
After that goal there was only one team on the pitch for a while as Lautoka turned up the heat.
However, chances from Chettleburgh, Benjamin Totori and Vakatalesau were all wasted in the 15 minutes following the goal and when Samuela Drudru got himself sent off for a second yellow card after 68 minutes, Lautoka lost some of their momentum.
But despite being a man up Marist could never really use the most of that adavantage and it all dribbled out in the end to a 1-1 draw, which means Lautoka has to travel to Honiara and score in front of a crowd as large as potentially 30 000, which is no easy feat.
Lautoka coach Kamal Swamy was pleased with his side after the match, but he was a little annoyed that Marist got the first goal.
“We had a game plan and what we wanted to do, we did in the first half,” Swamy told the OFC.
“The plan was going ok but unfortunately they scored first. We had hoped to hold them off and just monitor them before trying to attack them.”
In the other dugout Marist’s Jerry Allen had warned his players about the strengths of their opposition but believe they have a big chance for greatness.
“I think we played well in the first half and okay in the second, but we conceded. I knew it would happen there, from a set piece,” Allen said to the OFC.
“I know Osea (Vakatalesau) well, Brian (Kaltack) some of the other boys, I used to coach them before with Hekari and so I reminded my players what they can do.
“Osea has good height, and he used it in the corner even though I warned them.
“The plan now is to go home, work on some things and prepare once more – we have a big chance to do something great at home next week.”
Watch the highlights from Lautoka 1 – 1 Marist here:
Both return legs will be played on Sunday next week (29th April).
Categories: OFC Champions League