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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Solomon Soccer Champion demolished at Club Championship

AS Pirae captain Naea Bennett staked an early claim for the golden boot title as the Tahitian champions declared their semifinal candidacy in emphatic style.

Bennett was on target four times in Pirae’s 10-1 humbling of Solomon Islands champions Marist FC in the tournament opener at North Harbour Stadium. The lanky playmaker sparked Pirae’s rout when he was chopped down in the box by Marist goalkeeper Philip Samani in the 21st minute. The impressive Jose Hmae made no mistake from the penalty spot to score the first goal of his hat-trick.

Bennett then got into the action when he blasted a shot through the gloved fingertips of Samani in the 32nd minute before Desmond Faauiaso atoned for an earlier howler by giving Pirae a 3-0 lead just before halftime. Pirae had to wait just three minutes after the break for Bennett’s second goal before the Tahitian skipper sealed his hat-trick when Samani left a gapping hole at his near post in the 66th minute.

Bennett’s fourth came from after an almost length of the pitch break from Vincent Simon, the defender finally laying off to Bennett for a simple tap-in. Alex Williams added a brace to complete the rout as Marist were continually cut open by the pacy Pirae frontrunners and exposed by the Tahitian’s ability to deliver dangerous crosses almost at will.

Auckland City pulverised Papua New Guinea’s Sobou FC only to be overshadowed by Tahiti champions AS Pirae on the opening night of the 2006 Oceania Club Championship at Albany on Wednesday.

The New Zealand Football Championship winners more than played their part in the opening night goal feast with Team Wellington import Graham Little on target twice in a 7-0 thumping of Sobou.

But Auckland find themselves second in group A after AS Pirea opened the FIFA Club World Cup qualifying tournament with a 10-1 demolition of Solomon Island champions Marist FC. Pirae captain Naea Bennett staked an early claim for the tournament’s golden boot title with four goals while the impressive Jose Hmae added a hat-trick. Auckland were never troubled in a result that bettered their 6-1 win over Sobou at last year’s OFC Club Championship.

But coach Allan Jones and the small smattering of Auckland supporters were left frustrated as the fancied NZFC champions missed nearly twice as many guilt-edged chances as they converted. Jones’ usual suspects – South African marksman Keryn Jordan and Grant Young – gave Auckland a 2-0 halftime lead with 11th and 38 minute strikes. But it should have been more comfortable with Young having a 42nd minute penalty saved before steering a one-on-one chance with Sobou goalkeeper Runa Geasa wide in first half stoppage time.

Liam Mulrooney made it 3-0 when he sent a looping header over Geasa in the 53rd minute before halftime substitute Little scored the first goal of his double in the 66th minute. Little’s scored came after his younger brother Bryan – also making his Auckland debut - got on the scoresheet when he stabbed home Mulrooney’s clever cross-goal chip in the 69th minute.
Hawke’s Bay United import Jason Hayne then completed the rout in injury time when he tucked home a rebound off the post from Bryan Little.

“It’s a good start,” Jones told “I’m pleased with keeping a clean-sheet and B with the seven goals which keeps our goal differential up there. What I was very displeased with was the number of chances we created in the first half that we didn’t finish.” Jones praised Auckland’s debutants afterwards. “The players that came on, in particular the Little boys, performed well and with Hayne they [importantly] gathered goals. If you’re going to go forward in this tournament you’re going to need goal scorers.”

Auckland face Marist FC on Saturday before their likely group A decider against AS Pirae on Tuesday. “That [the Pirae fixture] is going to be the big match in this group but I think we’ve got to look at the other group as well and not least YoungHeart Manawatu who I think will do very well,” Jones said.

Meanwhile, YoungHeart Manawatu open their title tilt against Fiji’s Eagles United at 7.30pm tonight but will be without Andy Barron with the midfielder ruling himself out of the tournament in the hope his injured left knee will heal in time for the All Whites tour of Europe later this month. Today’s early match at North Harbour Stadium pits Vanuatu champions Tafea FC against last year’s beaten finalists AS Magenta (New Caledonia).

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