The New Zealand side took a comfortable win over Lautoka from Fiji thanks to a great first leg in Wellington. This is their first win in Oceania’s regional competition.
(Lautoka – Team Wellington 3-4. Aggregate: 3-10)
In the first leg, played last week, a robust and well-structured Lautoka defence held their line well, despite conceding after 16 minutes. When Lautoka managed to get away with only one goal conceded in the first half despite the Wellington pressure, they must have thought they had some form of a chance, but that hope was soon crushed.
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The Lautoka wall crumbled
Jack-Henry Sinclaie who had come on for Nathanael Hailemariam just four minutes earlier, made it two for Team Wellington after 57 minutes. Then Andrew Bevin in the 61st and Mario Barcia in the 63rd added two quick goals to take the tally up to four.
When Praneel Naidu then lost his head and got himself sent off with a straight red card, just a minute after the fourth goal, it was in reality all over for Lautoka.
Sinclair and Taylor Schrivjers piled on two more goals for Wellington before the end of the game, which meant the Kiwi team travelled to the second leg with a comfortable 6-0 lead.
Second leg drama
In Fiji it seemed like it would be a walk in the park for Wellington but the home side wanted to give something to their fans and produced some good chances in the first half.
But it was once again Team Wellington who opened the scoring when backup goalkeeper Senirusi Bokini, standing in for Beniamino Mateinaqara who was sidelined by a shoulder injury between the games, scuffed a clearance into the feet of Mario Ilich. The defender tried to lob the goalkeeper but Bokini got a hand to it, only to shove the ball into the feet of Dave Radrigai, who, somewhat clumsily, sent the ball into his own net.
Then it was Ilich’s turn to get on the scoresheet when yet another clearance landed in his feet. This time he sent the shot straight into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead for Wellington going into half time.
Upon the restart of the match Ross Allen was brought on for Jack-Henry Sinclair and it didn’t take the striker long to find the net.
Only six minutes were played when Allen was played through by Nathanael Hailemariam, and the Englishman made no mistake as he put the third goal past Bokini.
Starting a comeback?
That third goal seemed to be what Lautoka needed to start getting back in the game as Benjamin Totori pulled one back just a little over a minute later with a finish from a very tight angle. Wellington goalkeeper Scott Basalaj got a glove to it, but couldn’t hinder the shot from bouncing in.
Team Wellington steadied the ship after that, but Lautoka didn’t give up and with seven minutes remaining Shaziz Ali pulled another back with the goal of the day. He received the ball around 20 meters out, took one step back and curled the ball into the far top corner.
And then, just a minutes later, Lautoka completed the comeback. Once again it was Benjamin Totori who ran with the ball across Team Wellington’s half and sent a low shot into the bottom corner. It may not have meant much in the grand scheme of things, but a draw would still be a nice result.
Because in the 87th Angus Kilkolly secured himself the Golden Boot trophy as top scorer of the tournament with his eighth goal of the competition. A low shot from just outside the box was unreachable for Bokini and Team Wellington secured a win in the second leg as well. 4-3 in the second leg and 10-3 on aggregate.
“I’m delighted, we’re still absorbing everything but after a season of tremendous hard work, to finally clinch the big one is a tremendous feeling,” Team Wellington coach Jose Figueira told the OFC after the match.
List of awards for the 2018 Oceania Champions League:
Golden Ball: Roy Kayara (Team Wellington)
Golden Boot: Angus Kilkolly, 8 goals (Team Wellington)
Golden Glove: Enaut Zubikarai, 2 goals conceded (Auckland City)
Fairplay Award: Auckland City