It’s crunch time in the OFC Champions League football competition with a number of teams facing must-win matches to maintain their hopes of making the knockout stage.
Group A hosts Hienghène Sport can secure their spot in the quarter finals with a win over AS Tefana in Kone.
The New Caledonian side opened their campaign with a 5-0 demolition of Vanuatu’s Malampa Revivors at the weekend, while Tahiti’s Tefana let a two goal lead slip in a 3-3 with Toti City FC from Papua New Guinea.
Hienghène are competing in the Champions League for only the second time while Tahiti’s Tefana reached the semi-finals in 2016 and 2017.
“Tefana have valuable knowledge of this competition, a very experienced Champions League team,” said Hienghène coach Felix Tagawa.
“The fact they are in the middle of their domestic season in Tahiti will also give them extra advantage. We can tell they recruited well bringing in good players, so we expect a very different game from them.”
Hienghène Sport thrashed Vanuatu’s Malampa Revivors 5-0 in their opening game on Sunday, while Tefana are desperate to make amends after letting a two goal lead slip in a 3-3 draw against Papua New Guinea’s Toti City FC.
“This second match is already crucial for our chances in the competition,” said Tefana coach Franck Mathieu.
“We will need to work hard with our entire defence regarding our liveliness, or toughness, our system we need to remobilise in order for the boys to rediscover our spirit, our style our togetherness, our football, our game.”
In the early kick-off at Stade Yoshida, Malampa Revivors and Toti City find themselves in effectively must-win territory.
Toti City prevailed 5-2 when the teams last met in the Champions League two years ago but Malampa coach Kaison Maki said his players have come a long way since then.
“My players (have) more composure, more younger and more fitter players than the previous ones,” he said.
“Most of the younger players have more experience in the local leagues in Vanuatu so I think it’s a little bit different from the first time we played (in the Champions League).”
Toti FC coach Peter Gunemba is also taking nothing for granted.
“The Malampa that I saw on the weekend is quite different so we’ve been talking about it since yesterday and today (Tuesday) and we will have to come up with strategies how to win if we can,” he said.
“But it really depends how much effort we put during the 90 minutes – if we go to sleep of if we work – then we might not (get) what we want.”
Meanwhile Group B front-runners Lautoka FC and AS Central Sport can both confirm their passage to the next round with victories against Henderson Eels and Morobe Wawens.
Fijian champions Lautoka thrashed PNG newcomers FC Morobe 5-0 on matchday one but coach Kamal Swamy insisted his side will need to be even better in front of goal against the debutants from Solomon Islands.
“I think in the last 20 minutes that counts and they came back which means they (Henderson Eels) are a strong side,” he said.
“They played until the last whistle and we need to keep that in mind that we cannot relax and at the same if the opportunities come we need to finish it, if we don’t finish it they can punish as in the last 20 minutes.”
Eels coach Eddie Marahare expects his players to lift their game against last season’s runners up.
“Overall, one of the key areas is the boys need to step up their confidence to keep the ball and improve on our finishing.”
AS Central Sport held on to beat Henderson 3-2 at the weekend and coach Efrain Araneda said they will need to take maximum points against FC Morobe too, ahead of a looming clash with the group hosts.
“We need to take the game seriously to try to win to arrive with 6 points against Lautoka,” he said.
Morobe coach Peter Purari only joined the team in Lautoka on Monday and is confident they can cause an upset against the Tahiti Ligue 1 champions.
“To be honest, I wasn’t here, the full strength of the team wasn’t here so what happen yesterday is yesterday,” he said.
“I think positively we look forward towards tomorrow’s game. It’s our defensive formation which I really need to work on and the attacking also.”
(Source:Radio New Zealand)