OFC Champions League Group A in New Caledonia and Group B in Fiji finished last weekend and there were some pretty surprising results.
The biggest shock in the Champions League so far is that Fiji’s Lautoka, who reached the final last year, failed to get out of the group stage.
The Fijian champions needed to win by two goals in the final match to secure a spot in the quarter-finals and get out of Group B, which they hosted.
Discipline cost Blues
Against AS Central Sport from Tahiti discipline cost them as they got both Bong Kalo and Dave Radrigai sent off in the first half.
Kalo got a straight red card after reacting to being fouled by shoving the Central Sport player while Dave Radrigai got his second yellow for a rash tackle from behind that also gave away a penalty, which the Tahitians failed to convert.
Despite both red cards Lautoka went into half time with a single goal lead as all-time leading OCL goalscorer Benjamin Totori had put The Blues in front five minutes before the break.
But the two-man advantage meant that Central Sport managed to come back. On the hour mark, they equalized and brought the mood down in the home crowd.
Any hopes Lautoka might have had to get a win out of the match was dashed when Afraz Ali got his second yellow card just before the final whistle, so Lautoka had to finish with only eight players on the pitch.
“We wanted to qualify, but unfortunately the two red cards in the first half let us down,” Lautoka coach Kamal Swamy told newspaper Fiji Sun after the game.
“Still with nine players we were applying pressure. At the end we had eight men, we had a draw.”
That means that Central Sport takes top spot in Group B while debutants Henderson Eels are also through to the quarter-finals. Lautoka finish third, two points off qualifying, while Morobe Wawens from PNG end dead last with zero points and no goals scored.
Watch the highlights here:
Hosts through from Group A
Over in New Caledonia, Hienghène Sport pulled off somewhat of a surprise as they topped group A in front of Toti City from PNG.
After two great opening matches, beating Malampa Revivors from Vanuatu 5-0 and Tefana from Tahiti 1-0, Hienghène only needed a point against Toti to secure top spot.
Toti, on the other hand, were through to the quarter-finals no matter what as Tefana failed to beat a resilient Malampa who had only pride to play for.
Both teams went at it with all they had and the match got its first goal after only nine minutes when the hosts took the lead. Toti managed to respond fifteen minutes later, however, as Nigel Dabinyaba equalized in the 24th minute.
Despite both teams being willing to attack, neither side found the net again in the match and the game ended in a 1-1 tie.
That means that Hinghène have secured home advantage for the quarter-finals. They are set to be played the weekend of 6-7 April, with the return leg the following weekend. Group C and D will start this coming weekend (23/24 February).