Hekari test looms for City

Words: ACFC Media

Monday 13 May 2024

Picture: Phototek

PAPEETE, Tahiti - Following an energy-draining opening Group A clash Auckland City FC  have quickly turned their focus to Papua New Guinea powerhouse Hekari United FC and Wednesday morning’s (NZST) crucial encounter in Tahiti.

After being forced to settle for a share of the points by Rewa FC from Fiji, the defending champions face another tough examination by a Hekari side that looked impressive in their opening clash to record a 2-0 victory over Solomon Warriors.

Hekari showed confidence and composure as they overcame their Melanesian rivals courtesy of two second half goals from Ati Kepo and substitute Rex Naime to take pole position in the group at the end of the Match Day 1.

The Papua New Guineans have a proud Oceania pedigree, they are the 2010 winners of the competition after defeating New Zealand’s Waitakere United in the two-legged final to become the first non-New Zealand or Australian side to secure the region’s top club football prize. 

The Port Moresby-based side have secured their spot in the current tournament in dominant form as they eased past Port Moresby Strikers FC 2-0 away in the first leg of their National Playoff before driving home their advantage with a comfortable 3-0 second leg victory to qualify 5-0 on aggregate.

Hekari had underperformed in last year's competition won by the Navy Blues in Vanuatu 12 months ago when, despite big expectations back home,  they didn’t manage to advance to the knockout stage.

Last year’s Head Coach Eric Komeng, who has stepped aside to focus on the Hekari United Women’s team,  is still part of the team’s campaign as an assistant to new Head Coach David Muta in Papeete.

Muta believes his side will deliver an improved performance from last year in Tahiti.

“We hope for a better performance and we always train hard and I believe every session makes the boys stronger. We have some new players who have strengthened the side,” Muta said.

“We can achieve a positive result if we focus and work hard for the tournament,” the Hekari coach added.

Auckland City and Hekari have met twice before on the Oceania stage with the Navy Blues winning 2-0 in 2011 before sharing the points as a result of a 1-1 draw next year.

Current City head coach Albert Riera and assistant coach Ivan Vicelich have both featured as players for the Navy Blues in those two games.

With stifling heat and humidity and an early kick off, the conditions could play a key role in Wednesday’s game which is shaping up as a potentially decisive encounter for these two rivals.

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MATCH DETAILS
OFC CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUP A MD2
Wednesday 15 May 2024
Auckland City FC vs Hekari United FC
Stade Paea, Papeete, Tahiti 
Kick-off: 10:00 am NZST

AC OCL SQUAD: 1-Conor TRACEY (GK), 3- Adam MITCHELL, 4-Christian GRAY, 7-Cam HOWIESON (c), 8-Gerard GARRIGA. 9-Angus KILKOLLY, 10-Dylan MANICKUM, 11-Ryan DE VRIES, 12- Regont MURATI, 13-Nathan LOBO, 16-Joe  LEE, 19-Liam GILLION, 21- Adam BELL, 22-Tong ZHO, 23- Alfie ROGERS, 24-Joe WALLIS (GK), 25- Michael DEN HEIJER, 27-Stipe UKICH.

COACH: Albert RIERA
ASSISTANT COACH: Ivan VICELICH
GK COACH: Enaut ZUBIKARAI
TECHNICAL: Adria CASALS
LOGISTICS: Robin HAYTER
PHYSIO: Matt PAYNE

CHATHAM CUP Rd3

Sun 16 June 2024,Hamilton Wanderers Kiwitea St, KO:2.00pm

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