Noumea’s Stade Numa Daly is set to take centre stage on Sunday with some of Oceania’s best players and top four clubs on full display in back-to-back semi-finals of the OFC Champions League 2019 tournament.
Adding spice to the occasion the two local New Caledonian teams Hienghène Sport and AS Magenta will be hosting two New Zealand teams – reigning champions Team Wellington and nine-time champions Auckland City FC – in what promises to be an enthralling day of football.
Representing New Caledonia’s Northern Province, Hienghène Sport will be hoping to end Team Wellington’s title defence when they kick off proceedings before local favourites AS Magenta face the region’s most successful club Auckland City FC to decide the second spot in this year’s final.
Hienghène Sport have arrived in Noumea on the back of a hard-fought, extra-time quarter-final victory over Fijian giants Ba FC, while their opponent Team Wellington have booked their ticket to Noumea with a dominant 6-1 win over Henderson Eels from the Solomon Islands.
Since that victory Felix Tagawa’s charges have embarked on their new domestic season and are still unbeaten with two wins and a draw after three rounds.
The Hienghène coach says the busy schedule throughout their Champions League campaign as well as the start of the new domestic league a lot out of his players who needed a recharge before tackling Wellington.
“We need to fall on our feet, as they say.
“We have already come through some big group matches and a quarter-final which we won the hard way,” he explained.
We have a group of 23 which should allow us to change our players, but the reality is here and we have players out of form, injuries and so on.
“There’s no secret, we have to try and recover as best we can and not forget our game, work on our tactics,” said the coach.
Tagawa has also heaped praise on their opponents.
“The title holders, it’s a team of great calibre, with players who don’t give up for anything – beginning to end.
“They are competitors.
“Even if they’ve lost some key players they’re still been able to train some younger ones that have filled those gaps
“We need to focus on our game, we need to be ready,” said Tagawa.
The Hienghène coach is also hoping for a big turn out and plenty of support from their fans at Stade Numa Daly.
“Our fans have supported very well throughout this competition and we will need them once again to get us over the line on Sunday,” he said.
After three consecutive runner-up finishes behind New Zealand rivals Auckland City FC, Team Wellington’s OFC Champions League triumph last year was a special moment for the club and their fans.
Jose Figueira’s men from the New Zealand capital will be desperate to defend their regional crown and another Club World Club challenge especially since they have failed to qualify for next year’s OFC Champions League as a result of a disappointing domestic season.
Armed with steely determination the Team Wellington players will not need extra motivation, according to their coach.
“I have every confidence as I always do in these players, who eight months now into the season have given absolutely everything, so we are looking forward to a big test.
“These are the games you want to be involved in and we are looking forward to it,” said Figueira.
The Team Wellington coach, however, is under no illusion about the task ahead.
“We know Hienghène well, from the last time we played them a couple of years ago.
“They had the same coach Felix (Tagawa) and they have a number of the same players, so they are obviously a team with a lot of experience, they have been together for a long time, and especially in their own country they will be a big challenge so we are ready for a test, that’s for sure,” added Figueira.
“They are obviously just starting their league and maybe not finding their rhythm just yet, early on their season while we are at the end of our season and now at a time when we are at our fittest, at our fastest and sharpest so it will be interesting on Sunday how the two teams fair, but they will come into the match with a lot of motivation, in a double-header game with the local crowd and the atmosphere, so we will have to be at the top of our game,” insisted the Team Wellington coach.
In the day’s second semi, high-flying AS Magenta can’t afford to be complacent despite their impressive 8-0 quarter-final victory over Tahiti’s AS Central Sport when they face Auckland City FC, who have also cruised into the final four with a convincing 4-0 win over Lae City Dwellers from Papua New Guinea.
The match between Magenta and Auckland will see the resumption of these two clubs’ rivalry following their last meeting during the group stages of the competition when the Navy Blues have edged past their New Caledonian opponents 2-1.
Since that defeat to the New Zealanders, Magenta remain unbeaten with the Noumea based club showing impressive form with the dismantling of AS Central in the knock out stages and a strong start to their local competition to lead the New Caledonian league after three rounds.
The in-form New Caledonians can’t wait for the re-match but coach Alain Moizan is well aware of the enormous challenge his players face against the nine-time champions.
“It’s a big match for us, for the club and it will be necessary that the players are in the right state of mind as they will need to maintain their focus and concentration all throughout the game,” he said.
“We’ve played Auckland in the group stages and it was a close contest.
“That performance gives us plenty of hope and as a group we believe that we can beat them.
“Of course they are a very good team and since they didn’t win the New Zealand championship this year they will have extra motivation to do well and win the OFC Champions League.
“That’s why we need to be at our best if we want to achieve our goal,” explained the Magenta coach.
His Auckland City FC counterpart Ramon Tribulietx is also preparing for a closely contested match.
He says the Navy Blues have done a lot of research on their opponent and they have a healthy respect for their rivals.
“It’s a team which in transition can hurt you.
“They have players like (Richard) Sele especially, who is a player that caught our eye.
“Very skilful very fast, so with space they have two or three players up there who can hurt you,” he explained.
“They will probably try to set up in a way that they can transition to attack very quickly and score and try to create opportunities from those situations.
“So they are a very dangerous team, we understand that, it’s not going to be easy, especially because they are playing at home,” said Tribulietx.
The Navy Blues coach was also adamant that it was important for his team to focus on their own style.
“We are a team that is based on the ball and we need to have the ball and that is what we are going to aim for.
“We have been very successful at this club for a long time and this is how I understand the game and we are not going to change for a game,” he explained.
“I feel as normal as ever.
“We have played against other teams from the islands that have been very good, like Magenta,” insisted the coach, who at the same time has warned his players against any complacency.
“We understand the difficulties when you come up here.
“We have to tackle the game the same way as always, respecting the opponent, because when you lose respect for anyone in life you can run into problems, so with all that we will try to put up the best performance we can,” he explained.
OFC Champions League 2019 – Semi Final
Hienghène Sport [HGN] vs Team Wellington [WLG]
Stade Numa Daly
Noumea, New Caledonia – Sunday 28 April
Kick-off: 14:-00 local (15:00 NZ)
Referee: George TIME (SOL)
Assistant Referee 1: Stephen SENIGA (SOL)
Assistant Referee 2: Avinesh NARAYAN (FIJ)
Fourth Official: Norbert HAUATA (TAH)
Team List: Team List: 1. Rocky NYIKEINE (GK), 2. Joris GORENDIAWE, 3. William YENTAO 4. Bruno HYANEM, 5. Jordan DINET, 7. Anthony KAI, 8. Geordy GONY, 9. Jefferson DAHITE, 10. Miguel KAYARA, 11. Bertrand KAI, 12. Antoine ROINE, 13. Roy KAYARA, 20. Cedrick SANSOT, 23. Nelson KAI, 26. Erwan AUSU, 28. Franck SINEM, 30. Yvanoe BAMY, 31. Christopher YEIWENE (GK)
Coach: Felix TAGAWA (NCL)
Team List: 1. Scott BASALAJ, 3. Adam MITCHELL, 4. Mario ILICH, 6. Taylor SCHRIJVERS, 7. Eric MOLLOY, 8. Henry CAMERON, 10. Nathanael HAILEMARIAM, 11. Bill ROBERTSON, 12Andrew BEVIN, 13. Daniel MULHOLLAND, 14. Jack-Henry SINCLAIR, 15. Joel STEVENS, 16. Angus KILKOLLY, 17. Alexander PALEZEVIC, 18. Aaron CLAPHAM, 19. Ross ALLEN, 22. Marcel KAMPMAN (GK)
Coach: Jose FIGUEIRA (ENG)
Courtesy of Oceania Football Federation