Ba Out

A well-placed free kick from midfielder Alex Feneridis was enough for Auckland to finish off the job they began in the first leg with a 6-1 victory and they will now meet either local rivals Waitakere United or Vanuatu’s Amicale, who clash tomorrow at Fred Taylor Park in Auckland, for a place in the May 19 final on Arena 2 at Mt Smart Stadium in New Zealand.#If Waitakere can capitalise on their 2-0 lead from the first leg and follow in their countrymen’s footsteps, a piece of history will be created as no teams from the same country have ever fought it out for Oceania’s biggest prize.#Auckland did their bit in creating that possibility by putting on a professional performance in the football-mad town of Ba to deny the Men in Black the spectacular comeback they were hoping for.#Hauling themselves back from a 6-1 deficit was always going to be an extremely tough challenge for the home side, especially as they were facing a team that is defending its crown and has dominated this competition for the past two seasons. #Making the assignment even tougher was the absence of the suspended Avinesh Suwamy and Meli Codro, whose ill-discipline was a major reason Ba were in this position after the pair were both dismissed in the first leg, leaving their team mates to face the defending champions with nine men and contributing hugely to the heavy nature of the defeat.#They were not likely to suffer a similar fate in front of their own fans in the second leg and managed to offer more on attack as they chased the five-goal victory it would have taken to keep their hopes alive. Laisenia Raura, Jacob Morrison and Scott Gannon all called goalkeeper Tamati Williams into action but couldn’t find the net as the experienced Auckland defence dealt with everything the Men in Black had to throw at them.#Golden Boot contender Sanni Issa again failed to add to his tally as Auckland controlled the majority of the possession and made a Ba comeback unlikelier by the minute. The chances of a miraculous turnaround were all but gone by the time the sides entered the sheds at 0-0 and it was in fact Auckland who finally broke the deadlock six minutes after the restart.#The goal was worth waiting for, Feneridis curling a right-foot free kick around the Ba wall and in off the post from just outside the box for one of the campaign’s most impressive strikes.#With any chance of going through now long gone, Ba had only pride to play for and couldn’t sign off on a high note as Auckland wrapped up the match in straightforward fashion to make sure of their return to the final.#“We had a lot of ball and were able to get the win which is what matters most,” Auckland coach Ramon Tribulietx said. “The crowd were great and really got behind Ba – that is something we lack in New Zealand.”#Despite the defeat, Ba coach Yogendra Dutt felt there were plenty of positives to take from the match.#“I would not say it was a disappointing loss as the way we played showed that we can match a top quality side,” he said. “I am proud of the boys today and would also like to thank the people of Fiji for supporting us throughout the Champions League.”#Tribulietx and his players will now look on with interest as Waitakere take on Amicale from 2pm local time tomorrow at Fred Taylor Park in Auckland, New Zealand.# OFC MEDIA

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