New Caledonia was the setting for Group B with host side Hienghene Sport hoping to gain an advantage from that. They were up against last years losing finalists Team Wellington, Fijian powerhouse Ba and Qualifying Stage winners, Cook Island side Puaikura.
There was a strong New Zealand presence in this group, not just with the TeeDubs side. Shortly before the first fixture, Puaikura coach Matt Calcott – last year’s NZFC winning coach, was relieved of duty and former All White, MAGs and current Manukau City coach Kevin Fallon assumed the role. He brought in experienced defenders Hone Fowler and Paul Day, midfielders Andre Estay and Jeremias Perez and Southern United ‘keeper Liam Little to bolster their chances.
The clash between Jose Manuel Figueira’s and Kevin Fallon’s teams was a tight affair in the first half, with Estay putting Puaikura ahead from the penalty spot before an own goal levelled the tie. In injury time Nat Hailemariam put TeeDubs ahead, and in the second half the Wellington side extended their lead through Hailemariam and Josh Margetts, the game finishing 4 – 1.
It was the second round which produced the moment of the Group. While Hienghene Sport’s chances of qualification may have ended in losing 3 – 1 to eventual group Winners Team Wellington, Bertrand Kai scored what could be the goal of the tournament with this acrobatic effort.
In the final group games there was little to play for, with Wellington already qualified. That didn’t stop them smashing eight past a rather shellshocked Ba, while the host team finished with a gritty flourish against Kevin Fallon’s gritty Cook Island side.
Categories: OFC Champions League
John Palethorpe lives in South Auckland which is very far away from Fratton Park and Champion Hill. Having been told there was no football in New Zealand, he was delighted to find that there is.