Two shocking but deserved results in the OFC Champions League semi-finals as Hienghène Sport and AS Magenta secured their spots in the final against Team Wellington and Auckland City.
(Hienghène Sport – Team Wellington 2-0, AS Magenta – Auckland City 2-1)
Never before in this competition, since Australia left for Asia in 2006 have there been a final without at least one New Zealand team in it. Three of the last four have been with Kiwi teams taking up both spots. And that’s what people thought would happen again.
But this year no New Zealand team will be in the final on May 11 or 12.
Reigning champions fell first
In the first of the two semi-finals between Hienghène and Team Wellington, the first half had plenty of chances for both sides.
And just four minutes in the second half the deadlock was broken.
A corner from veteran striker Bertrand Kai was swung in and Geordy Gony rose highest on the back post to head the ball into the net.
Team Wellington tried to find their way back in the match but their chances never bore the fruits of a goal.
Then, just as the clock ticked over into added time, the New Caledonians smashed all hope Team Wellington had left.
A long ball up from Hienghène’s goalkeeper found Bertrand Kai who took a defender the wrong way before passing into the box to Jefferson Dahite who had no trouble rolling the ball into the net.
New Caledonia had a team in the final for the first time since 2005. And it was about to get even better.
Magenta back to another final
The New Caledonia team that was in that 05 final was AS Magenta and they wanted to be no worse than their countrymen Hienghène.
The first half had chances here as well but unlike the first match, goals would be coming just before the break.
After 41 minutes Auckland took the lead when Micah Lea’alafa won the ball in the Magenta half and did it all himself. He advanced into the box and sent the ball past the Magenta goalkeeper for a 1-0 lead.
But then the tables turned.
Just before half time, veteran goalkeeper Enaut Zubikarai had somewhat of a meltdown. He dwelled too long on the ball just outside the box and when he was put under pressure he tried to pick it up.
He was then promptly sent off by referee David Yareboinen, after a short talk with his assistant, and the following free kick, nine minutes into added time, found its way past substitute goalkeeper Ruben Parker.
Over in the second half, Magenta put pressure on and Auckland stood firm. Then the Kiwis took control of the last half of the second half. No real chances came from either side until just before the end.
In the 88th minute, Kevin Maitrane won it for Magenta. A mistake in the Auckland defence saw the New Caledonians capitalise. Jean Christ Wajoka fought hard and managed to tap the ball to Kevin Maitran who put it into the net.
Auckland pressed hard but couldn’t find a way through in the dying minutes and we will now have an all New Caledonia, or non-New Zealand, final in the history of the competition.