Marist eliminated, four teams through to semi-finals

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Representatives of the four teams watch as OFC Competitions Director Chris Kemp explains the draw process.

It is a case of history repeating itself as the line-up of the semi-finals of the 2017 OFC Champions League sees AS Tefana and AS Magenta paired with Auckland City and Team Wellington respectively for the second year in a row in today’s official draw in Auckland.

The only difference this time is the two New Zealand sides aren’t the only ones who get to play with home advantage thanks to the semi-finals home-and-away format.

Tefana wrapped up their claim on the Group D slot last Friday evening (TAHT) with a 2-2 draw against Solomon Islands club champions Marist, and progress as the only team of the four semi-finalists not to have claimed the full complement of nine points during the group stage.

They also have the 4-2 loss at the hands of the eventual champions at QBE Stadium just over a year ago, in the back of their minds.

Despite that the side believe they are prepared for the next stage of the competition and are excited at the prospect of welcoming seven-time champions Auckland City to Stade Pater on 7 April.

“It’s a massive game,” assistant coach Pascal Vahirua said.

“And having playing at home to start things off could certainly be an advantage. But the essential thing for us is to enjoy ourselves.

“Tefana is playing at a high level and we showed during the group stage that we are a team. A team from Polynesia, who will defend Polynesia – all of Polynesia – and we hope that everyone will be at Pater to support us in doing that.”

Auckland City claimed the top of Group C on the final day of action with the competition’s largest winning margin after their 11-0 romp past Malampa Revivors on Saturday.

While the side are in winning form they are not ones to count their chickens before they hatch with captain Angel Berlanga weary of a Tefana side keen to see things finish differently this time.

“They will be willing to play us after last year. They lost the semi-final so they will be busting to beat us this time,” Berlanga said of Auckland’s opponents.

“We want to win the game again because we want to be in the final, and at the end of the day we want to win the trophy as well.”

Also making the Spaniard a little uneasy is this year’s format and the fact his side faces an away match first up.

“I think it’s a bit tricky. I don’t like playing the second game at home because it depends on the first match, the result you get, and you have a lot of pressure to perform,” he said.

“We know it will be a really tough game there with the heat, and the home advantage. But we will try to get something, a goal at least, to give us an advantage in the second leg.”

It’s deja-vu for New Caledonia’s AS Magenta and Team Wellington as well after the former suffered a 2-0 defeat to the 2016 runners-up a year ago.

But the Francophone side will be looking for redemption on home soil when they take on the men from New Zealand’s capital.

“It’s our desire to play against Wellington again, it’s a chance for us to get revenge for the result last year,” midfielder Kevin Nemia said.

“It’s always good to play against the teams from New Zealand. I think we have the level to play and we will see what happens on the day.”

Team Wellington have already had a taste of Caledonian hospitality after playing their group matches in Kone, one of the settlements in the country’s north.

While excited to be heading back to New Caledonia so soon, Team Wellington coach Jose Figuiera knows his side won’t have it easy.

“We’re obviously excited to be at this stage of the competition and as a club, we were recently over in New Caledonia and it will be good going back over there, back to familiar surroundings,” he said.

“The home-and-away format throws something new into the equation. We’ll have to make sure we’re right at the top of our game and ensure our preparations are top notch.”

The draw for the final was held at the same time, revealing the winner of Semi-Final 1 will play at home first on the weekend of the 29-20 April. The second leg will be held the weekend of the 6-7 May.

-OFC