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Team Wellington win through to semis

In the earlier match Hekari United managed to hold on to secure a 3-2 victory over AS Tefana despite being reduced to nine-men with 20 minutes to go.#While sitting pretty comfortable to finish top of the group and progress to the semi-finals, especially following the Hekari United’s earlier result, Team Wellington were keen to end the round with the maximum nine points.#Tafea were not about to roll over and let them walk their way past them, and Team Wellington coach Matt Calcott says his side coped with that pressure well.#“After the earlier result we needed to play well and really apply ourselves and I thought the boys did really well,” he says.#“We conceded one or two soft goals but our goals were good. The first goal was just a matter of ‘stay on your feet’, to be honest with you. We kept diving in and we spoke about it at half-time, then did better in the second half.#“We’ve always got goals in us, we just need to eradicate those softer goals. The boys have done well to qualify for the second round in our first time here. It’s three wins and that’s fantastic.”#Tafea started the match strong and looked the better side to nick the opener with Jean Kaltack and Bill Nicholls teaming up once again on the attack. While they made some great runs into their opponents’ penalty area, Tafea couldn’t trouble goalkeeper Michael O’Keeffe quite as much as they wanted to.#They probably weren’t counting on Tom Jackson’s long throws either, with the Team Wellington player providing an effective means of delivering into the box. With Tafea’s keeper Seloni Iaruel struggling with aerial arrivals into his area, the long lobs helped expose that weakness.#So when a foul from Tafea captain Jonah Turu saw Cole Peverley lining up a free kick just off the top of the box it looked like trouble for the Vanuatu club. As the ball dropped just in front of goal, Team Wellington captain Bill Robertson stooped to put a header past a stunned Iaruel.#The celebrations were short-lived however, as a great passing build-up from Tafea up the left and into the middle eventually came to striker Jean Kaltack who smashed it past O’Keeffe between the posts.#After the break, Tafea appeared to lose some of the determination and flair they’d displayed throughout the first half, and eventually in the 53rd minute their opponents were able to take advantage of the lull to pull ahead. This time it was Tim Myers with the delivery which was put away by Jarrod Smith.#Once again, Tafea hit back almost immediately. Gibson Daudau, who peppered the goal with crosses consistently during the match, was just over a leaping O’Keeffe and after an initial block, Bill Nicholls was able to poke the ball into the net.#Tafea seemed to find some renewed resolve to get the win the team, club and community back in Vanuatu so desperately wanted, but Team Wellington’s strength and power proved too much and the Kiwis were able add a winner in the 82nd minute courtesy of the hard-working Michael Gwyther.#Tafea coach Moise Poida acknowledged that his side paid dearly for their errors.#“We made three mistakes and they scored three goals because of them. We had quite a few chances, maybe it’s a lack of experience and we needed more experienced players, but no matter we’re still young and still have time” he says.#“I’m happy working with the youth of Vanuatu, it’s my job and I prefer to work with a young team and the same players. Last year we came here together, this year we were here together and next year, if we qualify, we will come together again.”#The day’s earlier match was an interesting encounter – AS Tefana were chasing a first victory here while Hekari United were keen to finish in the best possible fashion to try and pull themselves into contention for the best runners up position.#From the outset there was plenty resolve apparent from both teams with the action bounding from one end of the pitch to the other. For Tefana, the high Hekari backline proved tricky with its forward pack being caught by the offside trap pretty regularly.#After Tefana were denied by Hekari’s keeper Benaminio Mateinaqara at one end, Hekari were able to make a swift counter attack and, off a cross from Tutizama Tanito, Dennis Ifunaoa was able to volley home an impressive opener.#Just after the half-hour mark, Tefana had a break of sorts as Lorenzo Tehau burst into the box heading 1v1 with the keeper when his trailing foot was caught by Pita Bolatoga. Referee Ravitesh Behari showed little hesitation in brandishing his red card at the Fijian for denying a goalscoring opportunity. For Tefana it was a chance to get on the board, and for the second time in two matches it was Angelo Tchen firing from the spot.#The deadlock didn’t really last long as Tefana failed to clear a loose ball adequately allowing Haddis Aengari to pounce and slot past Stevens Hiriga to give his side a 2-1 lead going into the break. But the second period was barely five minutes old when persistence paid off the Tahitians and Temarii Tinorua was able to add a second equaliser.#With temperatures flaring and yellow cards flying, Tanito added fuel to the fire as he added his third assist – setting up young Tommy Semmy to slot home for Hekari’s third. After feeling like he was wronged in a challenge, Tanito retaliated just over five minutes later and was shown red, leaving his side with 20 minutes to go, and just nine players to see it out.#With an obvious man advantage Tefana made some great advances, but the poor finishing that has haunted them all tournament continued as they hit everywhere but the back of the net. With a clear disadvantage, Hekari had the hard job of trying to protect their lead and in the end managed to do just enough to hold on.#Hekari United coach Jerry Allen says the red cards didn’t help his side on the night.#“The boys did well and kept fighting until the final whistle. Some might have thought it would be impossible for us with the red cards, but the boys played until the final whistle,” he explains.#“I think that the plan [when we went to nine men] was to wait until they made a mistake and we go forward, but we ran out of numbers and had to hold back and wait.#While it hasn’t been the best campaign for the former champions, it hasn’t been the worst and Allen acknowledged that.#“I’ve enjoyed myself, last year we didn’t win any games but this year we’ve managed to win two and we lost one but that’s how football goes. Back home we need to go back and win two games to earn our tenth title.”#Not able to manage a win against a depleted Hekari United side was disappointing for Sebastian Labayen and Tefana, but he believes his side will come back stronger in 2016.#“This match was incredibly satisfying, even if we did concede three goals. I think in the three matches we played, there were five really good halves, so when you consider the youthfulness of this side, and what we were able to offer during our games, I think we’ll return better prepared next year,” he says.#“It’s been two years since we last played in the OFC Champions League, we put together a team that is very young and it has been a necessary learning experience for them to test themselves at this level.”#The 2015 Fiji Airways OFC Champions League action continues today at ANZ Stadium in Suva,with Group B lining up for their final matches, while at Govind Park, Ba it is Group A closing out their group stage games. At 4.30pm (local) FC Gaitcha will kick off against Lupe Ole Soaga in Ba, while Suva FA will play Western United in Suva. At 7pm AS Pirae play Ba FC, while in Suva it’s the re-match between 2014 finalists Amicale FC and Auckland City FC.#OFC Media#

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