OFC-Finalists found at OFC Club Champs
Auckland City will meet AS Pirae in Sunday's US$1 million Oceania Club Championship final after the Tahitians dashed YoungHeart Manawatu's hopes of making it an all Kiwi decider.
City romped into the FIFA Club World Cup qualifying final with a 9-1 demolition of Fiji's Eagles United on Friday but Manawatu were pipped 2-1 by Pirae in a thrilling second semifinal at North Harbour Stadium.
Manawatu were stunned when skilful frontrunner Jose Hmae gave Pirae the lead after just 32 seconds by tapping in a beautifully worked move by the Tahitians.
Pirae captain Naea Bennett lay on the final pass for Hmea before doubling the Tahitian champion's advantage in the eighth minute when he coolly rounded advancing Manawatu goalkeeper Hayden Englefield to stab into an empty net after being put clear by Teva Zaveroni.
Pirae were beating Manawatu at their own slick inter-passing game with Bennett, Hmae and Desmond Faauiaso in the thick of their best moves. Only two fine saves from Englefield and some sloppy finishing prevented Pirae from going to halftime with a greater advantage.
Solomon Islands winger Benjamin Totori gave Manawatu heart when he shrugged off a shirt clinging defender to blast past advancing Pirae goalkeeper Jonathan Torohia.
Torohia would have the last laugh however, pulling off a string of world-class saves to leave Manawatu heartbroken. The Pirae custodian saved his best effort until the 90th minute when he flung himself sideways to tip a powerful Boyens header from a corner over the bar.
Manawatu coach Colin Tuaa could only rue his side's slow start afterwards.
"We had opportunities there in the end but obviously our poor start cost us the game...we're pretty gutted," Tuaa said.
"We were just at sixes and sevens in the first 10 minutes and you can't do that at this level in a game as important as this."
Tuaa believes Auckland can provide Manawatu with a not insignificant monetary consolation in Sunday's final providing they press Pirae defensively.
A 30 percent slice of the tournament's US$1 million payday will be shared between the seven other New Zealand Football Championships franchises if Auckland win. A further 60 percent would be spilt equally between Auckland's players and the club with the remaining 10 percent to be reinvested into the game by New Zealand Soccer.
"Auckland have got to do a job for NZ Soccer now which I'm sure they will. Pirae are technically very good but you've just got to get into their faces early on which is what we didn't do," Tuaa said.
AUCKLAND 9 EAGLES UNITED 1
Auckland City waltzed into the final with a 9-1 demolition of 10-man Eagles United but the lop-sided score-line concealed the initial difficultly they have in overpowering the Fijian champions.
Eagles even took a 17 minute lead when Malakai Tiwa rifled a 25m daisy-cutter past wrong-footed Auckland goalkeeper Ross Nicholson.
Captain Neil Sykes came to Auckland's rescue 20 minutes later with an equaliser when South African marksman Keryn Jordan unselfishly stepped over a great cross from countryman Grant Young to leave Sykes open.
Midfielder Paul Seaman then broke Eagles spirit with a 52nd minute goal after more outstanding lead up work from Young who would be rewarded with two goals in as many minutes just after the hour.
Substitute Graham Little capped off Auckland's dominance with a late double after Eagles had Samuela Vula red-carded for an off the ball incident in the 64th minute.
"It was tough in the first half because they knock you off the ball...it requires huge patience to play that sort of team," Auckland coach Allan Jones said afterwards.
"But once we got to 2-1 it was all over because we were always going to hold our discipline and knew they wouldn't."
Jones is "confident" heading into the final, particularly after Auckland made the most of their unexpected shooting practice following their inability to convert chances earlier in the tournament.
Pirae will be without influential captain Naea Bennett's for the 5pm final as his Mormon values means he does not play on Sundays.
News source: Oceania Football (http://www.oceaniafootball.com)