Three teams still in the semi-final chase after day 2

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(OFC) A place in the OFC Champions League semi-final is still open for three teams after Western United secured a hard earned 2-1 win against Malampa Revivors and Auckland City proved their dominance in their 2-0 win against Lae City Dwellers on the second day of action for Group C at Mangere Centre Park today.

Malampa Revivors opened the day with a significantly stronger performance in their 1pm fixture against Western United, forcing the speedy Solomons to fight to the final whistle for the 2-1 win.

Western earned an early lead when Joses Nawo sent in an impressive shot from the right edge of the 18-yard box in the 25th minute but the Ni-Vanuatu first-timers lifted their intensity after conceding and the rest of the half saw a more equal spread of possession as Malampa Revivors fought for the equaliser.

Their tireless effort paid off early in the second half when Matson Feni received a yellow card for a tackle on Ismael Edward in the box and captain John Alick scored Malampa Revivors’ only goal of the game from the penalty spot.

A penalty on the other side of the field allowed the Solomon Islands club to regain their lead after a foul from Greg Bani in the box in the 75th minute. Western United captain Henry Fa’arodo stepped up to the penalty spot and fired the ball just wide of a diving Naruel Maliu to bring the score to 2-1.

A chance for Western United to further their lead came after Greg Bani was shown a yellow card for another foul in the penalty box in the 84th minute, but Maliu pulled off an impressive save to stop substitute Paul Wale from getting his name on the score sheet.

Although the loss ended Malampa Revivors’ chance of reaching the semi-finals, assistant coach Steven Ham was very pleased with the valiant effort displayed by his side, and thought his inexperienced team put up an impressive fight against a more established squad.

“I’m really happy because Western United are a talented team, most of them play for their national team,” he said.

“We really tried our best and we are a new team so I am pleased with our effort.”

Western United coach Commins Menapi was overjoyed to leave the field with their first points of the competition, and felt proud watching his side persevere against their determined opponents for the full 90 minutes.

“I’m happy with the performance of the boys today, we got three points and I’m happy with the way they played,” he said.

“Malampa gave us a good game today, I think they improved from their last game against Lae City Dwellers, so I was very happy that the boys went out there and gave 100 per cent.”

The second match of the day saw Group C’s top two contenders battle for a three-point lead on the table and competition favourites Auckland City proved their dominance, defeating Lae City Dwellers 2-0.

The Navy Blues maintained possession for the majority of the first half but were unable to find the back of the net, either sending attempts wide of goal or straight to the hands of Lae goalkeeper Ronald Warisan. It wasn’t until Fabrizio Tavano found Clayton Lewis with his free kick in the 44th minute that the All White was able to connect with the ball and send it into the back of the net. The second half saw a similar battle, with Clayton Lewis once again scoring the only goal of the half when he received a cross from Emiliano Tade and fired his attempt past Warisan.

Emiliano Tade was unlucky not to get his name on the score sheet throughout the clash, sending the ball wide several times throughout the first half. Multiple impressive saves from Warisan also kept Albert Riera, Cam Howiesen, and Tavano out of goal until the final whistle.

Lae City Dwellers coach Peter Gunemba was short for words after the heart-breaking loss, but was pleased with the strong challenge shown by his side against the region’s top club team.

“I’m pleased with the boys, especially our defence,” he said.

“We were playing the defending champions and they are much better than us but we are happy with the performance of the boys.

“We knew Auckland City were going to be the biggest obstacle but it’s over now so we’ll just concentrate on winning our last game.”

After the close result in their opening match against Western United, Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx was pleased to see a more dominant display against Lae, and thought his side was unlucky to only find the net twice in the 90 minutes of play.

“It was a very well-played game, we dominated from the start, similar to the other day but maybe even more today,” he said.

“We created heaps of chances that, had we put more away, would have made it a more comfortable game, but I’m happy with that performance.

“We knew they are going to be very intense. They are very physically athletic and technically very good and they try to capitalise the transition so we needed to make sure that we kept our ball circulating and I think we kept that in most parts of the game.”

The qualifier for the single spot in the semi-final will be determined when Lae City Dwellers face Western United before Auckland City take on Malampa Revivors in the final day of action in Group C for the OFC Champions League at Mangere Centre Park in Auckland on 18 March.