Words: ACFC Media
Sunday 8 March 2020
PAPEETE, Tahiti - Auckland City FC have claimed top spot in OFC Champions League Group D and the home quarter-final that comes with it after a 2-0 win over Lupe Ole Soaga.
It was the first time the Navy Blues had faced Samoan opposition and it proved to be a tough afternoon for Jose Figueira's team in sweltering conditions at Stade Mahina.
Figueira was delighted to complete the group with maximum points and without a goal conceded.
"The first objective was to try and finish top and earn a home quarter final.
"I'm very happy - we've had three games and three wins and three clean sheets is never easy to achieve.
"Lupe Ole Soaga are a team that have improved every year and its very good for the competition.
"We told our players it would be a very difficult game and things wouldn't just happen easy for us.
"Lupe showed again they are more organised, better conditioned and better technically and its very good for the competition.
"But we're very happy where we are at and how we finished here in Tahiti and we've enjoyed our stay here.
"We leave for New Zealand tomorrow and focus on a big game in the ISPS Handa Premiership against Eastern Suburbs AFC.
"There are some big teams in the competition now and some big teams finished second in their respective groups. The OFC Champions League is just getting started," he said.
Lupe Ole Soaga came into the match off the back of a huge upset victory over Fijian giants Ba while Figueira opted to rotate his squad handing Cameron Brown his first competitive start in place of Conor Tracey while there were also outings for Andrew Blake, Albert Riera, Logan Rogerson and Dylan Manickum.
The pace of the game was much slower compared to the Ba and AS Venus clashes and as a result space and opportunities were few and far between in a cagey first half.
The best chance of the opening 45 minutes came when Dylan Manickum saw his near post cross missed by Adam Mitchell who stole in front of the Lupe Ole Soaga defence but failed to get a clean connection.
There was also a good shout for a penalty just prior when Logan Rogerson appeared to be clipped over in the box only for referee George Time to wave away half-hearted appeals for a spot kick.
The deadlock was broken when Brian Kaltack nodded home a Cam Howieson cross on the half hour mark after the All Whites international found space on the right after a threaded through ball by Jordan Vale.
The advantage was doubled when goalkeeper Zane Green dashed out of his penalty box after punching clear from Manickum only to lose out at the second attempt allowing the Navy Blues attacker to clip a beautiful finish over the top of three covering defenders.
Lupe Ole Soaga forced a good save out of Brown when he was forced to parry a low shot at the base of his right hand upright late on.
The Navy Blues have no time to pause for breath with Figueira's team back into ISPS Handa Premiership action with the second Gridlock Derby of the season when they travel to Madills Farm to take on in-form Eastern Suburbs AFC.
The match is scheduled for Sunday 15 March, 2020, with a 4pm kick-off time. The game is set for broadcast on Sky Sports.
OFC Champions League - Group D
Sunday 8 March, 2020
Auckland City FC 2 (Brian KALTACK 30', Dylan MANICKUM 68')
Lupe Ole Soaga 0
AC: 24. Cameron BROWN (GK), 3. Adam MITCHELL, 4. Mario BILEN, 6. Brian KALTACK (13. Emiliano TADE 64'), 7. Cam HOWIESON (9. Myer BEVAN 76'), 8. Albert RIERA, 10. Dylan MANICKUM, 14. Jordan VALE (2. Mario ILICH 76'), 17. Andrew BLAKE, 20. Logan ROGERSON, 23. Alfie ROGERS.
SUBS NOT USED: 18. Conor TRACEY (GK), 5. Angel BERLANGA, 11. Tom DOYLE.
COACH: Jose FIGUEIRA.
Sunday 4 December 2022, Wellington Olympic, Mount Smart Stadium