Destiny beckons for Navy Blues

Words: ACFC Media

Saturday 27 April 2019

Picture: Phototek

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC are fit and raring to go as their OFC Champions League semi-final with AS Magenta draws near.

After three weeks intensive training and internal squad matches, Auckland City FC must now switch into competition mode for a tricky semi-final in Noumea.

The Navy Blues have had just one competitive match since April 6 when they disposed of Lae City Dwellers in the quarterfinals and coach Ramon Tribulietx admits it's a far from ideal schedule.

"It hasn't been a very good run for us where we have had a long spell without a game and we've tried to replicate the competition we've missed with friendly games but it's difficult to create the same emotional state or edge.

"We've delivered some intensity in our training sessions in other ways to keep the squad on their toes and we're not making any excuses - we'll do our best, we're physically very fresh and we'll look to be competitive when Sunday comes," he told www.aucklandcityfc.com.

Auckland City FC take on AS Magenta in the first of two semi-finals at Stade Numa Daly with defending champions Team Wellington taking on Hienghene Sport in the early kick-off at 2pm local time. The Navy Blues take on AS Magenta two-and-a-half hours later on the same pitch which is expected to be in good condition.

With a New Zealand versus New Caledonia double header a good sized home crowd is expected to back the locals after Hienghene Sport agreed to move their semi-final from Stade Yoshida in Kone to the national stadium three hours away.

Auckland City FC will be wary of the hosts after the teams met in the sweltering heat of Honiara on 24 February with the Navy Blues running out 2-1 winners courtesy of goals by Micah Lea'alafa and Dan Morgan. A late goal from Richard Sele set up a tense finish as Auckland City FC held out for an important win.

It's been 14 years since AS Magenta reached an OFC Champions League final while for Hieghene Sport history has already been made by reaching the last four in just their second Oceania tournament.

As always, Tribulietx takes a very analytical approach to the task ahead.

"AS Magenta are the home team which will be to their liking and I watched their quarterfinal match which was very similar to what we saw from them in the group stage - AS Magenta are very dangerous in transition and can always hurt you in that situation.

"They tend to leave two or three players forward when they don't have the ball and if they regain the possession deep they try to play forward very quickly and that's when Richard Sele can be a problem.

"In Honiara we paid a price with the climate in the last 25 minutes and that's when AS Magenta were able to hurt us two or three times and allowed that transition to be a problem.

"They can play direct in behind centrebacks or direct to get their wide players involved and that is something we need to understand how to deal with better.

"I believe it will be a similar game to what we experienced in the group stage and it's a style of football they are very comfortable with," he said.

One player in a race to be fit for duty is Micah Lea'alafa.

Lea'alafa was injured on international duty for the Solomon Islands during their wins over Vanuatu (3-1) and Chinese Taipei (1-0) back in March but is making steady progress towards a full recovery just in time for Sunday's semi-final showdown.

Lea'alafa was on target for the Solomon Islands in the win over Vanuatu with the other goals scored by Dennis Ifunaoa and Joses Nawo. Kensi Tangis scored Vanuatu's only goal.

"Micah was on the end of a bad tackle in Taipei but is back training with us and looking much better. Micah twisted his knee but he's not 100 percent right but I'm hopeful he'll be alright for the game. The rest of the squad has got over small niggles which is a positive for us."

The weather in Noumea is expected to be overcast with rain predicted while temperatures of between 20-25 degrees celsius should be challenging though nowhere near the intensity of Honiara earlier this season.

"The weather won't be a factor like it was in Honiara. Noumea is not comparable to the Solomon Islands at most times of the year and also because it's a late kick-off as well.

"We'll play our normal game and try to dominate the ball then look at the situations AS Magenta bring to the match."

Ends

Match Details
OFC Champions League Semi Final
Sunday 28 April 2019
AS Magenta v Auckland City FC
Stade Numa Daly, Noumea
New Caledonia
Kick-off: 6.30pm NZST

AC (selected from:) 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 2. Darren WHITE, 5. Angel BERLANGA (c), 7. Cam HOWIESON, 8. Albert RIERA, 11. Fabrizio TAVANO, 12. Dylan MANICKUM, 14. Jordan VALE, 15. Dan MORGAN, 16. Yousif ALI, 17. Reid DRAKE, 18. Ruben PARKER (GK), 19. David BROWNE, 20. Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 21. Maro BONSU-MARO,22. Omar GUARDIOLA, 23. Alfie ROGERS

FITNESS PENDING: 10. Micah LEA'ALAFA.

COACH: Ramon TRIBULIETX.

AUCKLAND CITY FC - OFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI-FINAL RECORD
19 May 2006 vs Nokia Eagles (H) won 9-1
5 May 2013 vs Ba (H) won 6-1
11 May 2013 vs Ba (A) won 1-0
26 April 2014 vs AS Pirae (H) won 3-0
3 May 2014 vs AS Pirae (A) lost 1-2
21 April 2015 vs FC Gaitcha (N) won 1-0
20 April 2016 vs AS Tefana (H) won 4-2
8 April 2017 vs AS Tefana (A) won 2-0
16 April 2017 vs AS Tefana (H) won 2-0
22 April 2018 vs Team Wellington (A) drew 0-0
29 April 2018 vs Team Wellington (H) drew 2-2

AUCKLAND CITY FC - MILESTONES

Auckland City FC have faced New Caledonian opposition just once previously at the semifinal stage when they defeated FC Gaitcha 1-0 in Suva on 21 April 2015.

Auckland City FC haven't lost a match in the OFC Champions League since May 3, 2014, when they lost 2-1 to AS Pirae in the OFC Champions League semi-final, second leg, in Papeete, Tahiti.

Auckland City FC are currently 29 matches undefeated in the OFC Champions League, a new record.

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