Team Wellington are gearing up for a score-fest against Auckland City in the second leg of the OFC Champions League final this Sunday, needing a minimum four-goal win over the six-time consecutive champions to claim the elusive title.
Overthrowing the defending champions by any margin will be an impressive achievement given their current unbeaten record in the OFC Champions League so far. The Navy Blues have conceded only one goal in six games and have broken a record for the highest winning margin in the competition’s history, an 11-0 victory over Malampa Revivors in the group stage.
Although Team Wellington’s assignment sounds near impossible, the three-time finalists managed to find the net seven times in their semi-final against AS Magenta at David Farrington Park only two weeks ago.
In addition, they proved their ability to make an entertaining and impressive comeback on home soil in the semi-finals of the domestic league against Waitakere United. The two sides were locked 4-4 at full-time, then 6-6 at the end of extra time before Team Wellington sealed a 3-2 win on penalties.
Making a return to their home ground for their last chance at a place in the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017, Team Wellington coach Jose Figueira is confident that his side can do it all again.
“We’ve already climbed some mountains this season,” he said.
“We’re more than capable of turning the result around. We’ve got to have that belief. We know that we’ve got goals in us.
“They are a quality side but we’ll go in with our fans behind us at home, going all guns blazing, and trying to turn the result around.”
The three-goal lead has Auckland City in a comfortable position for the final leg, but the memory of Team Wellington’s 2-1 Premiership final victory over Auckland City is still fresh in the head of coach Ramon Tribulietx.
Travelling to the capital for an OFC Champions League match for the first time, Tribulietx is preparing for a challenging match – this time without the support of the loyal Auckland City fans and instead the staunch Wellingtonians football community against them.
“I think the psychological side of the story is going to be very important coming into the second game,” he said.
“We’ve got a good advantage but it doesn’t mean anything in football. Anything can happen and Team Wellington have won a lot of games by a big margin.
“We need to understand that going down there is going to be a big battle.”
OFC Champions League Final – Second Away Game
Team Wellington vs. Auckland City FC Fact Box
David Farrington Park, Wellington, New Zealand
Sunday 7 May Kick-off: 1pm
Team Wellington [NZL]
Vital Statistics: On average in the OFC Champions League, Team Wellington score 4 goals per match – or one every 22.5 minutes.
The Players: Joel Stevens is a tough player to close down, he has speed and impressive ball control down the wing, putting in some tidy crosses for Tom Jackson and Ben Harris to finish. His precision with a free kick has also become an associated trait of his game style.
Coach Quote: “We’ve gone straight in to recovery and reviewed the last match, now we’ve just got to get everybody on the same page. If we do what we did in the second half with more quality in those final actions, I think we’ve got every chance.”
Team Wellington: 1. Scott BASALAJ (GK), 2. Justin GULLEY, 3. Omrie SAOLELE, 4. Guillermo MORETTI, 5. Bill ROBERTSON, 6. Taylor SCHRIJVERS, 7. Leo VILLA, 8. Cole PEVERLEY, 9. Tom JACKSON, 10. Nathanael HAILEMARIAM, 11. Mario BARCIA, 12. Andy BEVIN, 13. Roland BALA, 14. Billy SCOTT, 15. Joel STEVENS, 16. Ben HARRIS, 17. Sam BLACKBURN, 18. Nicolas ZAMBRANO, 19. Joshua MARGETTS, 20. Nicholas EDGINTON, 21. Niko KIRWAN, 23. James McPEAKE (GK) Coach: Jose FIGUEIRA (ENG)
Auckland City FC
Vital Statistics: Having conceded just one goal in six matches, Auckland City’s rate of goals scored against is one every 540 minutes in this year’s OFC Champions League so far. Up until the Leg 1 final, Team Wellington were conceding a goal a match in the competition in comparison.
The Players: Joao Moreira’s showed his power in Leg 1 on the final and Team Wellington will be keen to close him out of Sunday’s game. His long reach and strength on the ball allows him to connect with power even while under pressure, and his combinations with Clayton Lewis and Darren White created a dangerous force up front for Auckland City.
Coach Quote: “Team Wellington have played all season with that back three, aggressive and pressing us very high, not letting us play back around. In set pieces and in crosses, they’ve got very powerful players up in the air and we need to understand that for the final. Anything can happen and Team Wellington have won a lot of games by a big margin.”
Auckland City FC: 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 2. Harshae RANIGA, 3. Takuya IWATA, 4. Mario BILEN, 5. Angel BERLANGA, 6. Cam HOWIESON, 7. Reid DRAKE, 8. Albert RIERA, 9. Darren WHITE, 10. Ryan DE VRIES, 11. Fabrizio TAVANO, 13. Alfie ROGERS. 14. Clayton LEWIS, 15. Mario ILICH, 16. Daewook KIM, 17, Joao MOREIRA, 18. Danyon DRAKE (GK), 19. Micah LEA’ALAFA, 20. Emiliano TADE, 21. Harry EDGE, 22. Abdullah AL-KALISY, 23. Marko DORDEVIC, 24. Jacob SPOONLEY (GK). Coach: Ramon TRIBULIETX (ESP)