OFC: Auckland City FC are Oceania's most successful club side having claimed their seventh-consecutive OFC Champions League title and a place at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 after beating Team Wellington 2-0 in the second leg of the final at David Farrington Park yesterday.
Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx was overjoyed with his side’s historic feat, and very proud to finish the regional competition with a hard-earned win against quality opponents.
“We worked really hard all season for this. We knew it was going to be physical and that they were going to throw everything in to it. It’s a big final - the prize behind this is unbelievable - so we expected something like this,” he said.
“I think the boys held really strong in those set pieces and those long balls that they kept insisting. We defended those situations very well and sooner or later we materialised those counter attacks with a goal and I think after that, it was over.”
It was a neck-and-neck start to the first-ever regional final to be held in New Zealand's capital and with Auckland City sitting relatively comfortable after winning the first leg 3-0, it was always going to be a tough ask for the hosts.
Team Wellington captain Bill Robertson nearly opened the scoring for his side in the first half when he went one-on-one with Auckland City’s Enaut Zubikarai, but the goalkeeper pulled off an impressive punching save to deny what would have been a great opener.
The resulting corner set Robertson up for his second attempt at goal but once again, an impressive dive from Zubikarai kept them at bay.
The honour of the first goal of the Leg 2 final fell at the feet of substitute Ryan De Vries, who replaced Joao Moreira late in the first half after he sustained a head injury in a collision with Taylor Schrijvers.
A defensive error from Team Wellington saw De Vries with the ball at his feet in front of an unsupported Scott Basalaj, giving the striker plenty of time to line up and fire his shot at goal to give the Navy Blues the lead.
Only 13 minutes later, Emiliano Tade secured the title for Auckland City with an impressive long range attempt off a perfect pass from De Vries.
Team Wellington pressed high for the remaining 15 minutes, keeping Zubikarai busy with traffic in the Auckland City penalty box, but the Wellingtonians couldn’t break the defending champions’ backline.
Maintaining their world record for the most regional titles of any club in the Confederation, Auckland City proved their dominance throughout the entire campaign, making today’s victory even sweeter for Tribulietx.
“It’s a great feeling because it’s not a one-off or a lucky thing. You can see that there’s a lot of work in behind this, there’s a lot of people out there that have been working really hard with the assistance of the team. All these people add on their little bit and the effort behind that is massive,” he said.
“To get the title for the seventh time in-a-row, I’m really proud of them and I think the club is very proud of everyone here.”
Team Wellington coach Jose Figuiera was disappointed with the loss after a hard-fought campaign from his side, but the consolation was constantly improving performances from his side and he's optimistic and confident as they look ahead to the 2018 campaign.
“Today was always going to be a difficult task and I was really happy with the way we held them out in the first half. If we’d taken a couple of those half chances early on it could have been a different game but credit to Auckland, they’re a top side and if you’re asleep for any moment, they pounce,” he said.
“I’m proud of the team and I think we showed enough this year that we’re moving in the right direction and certainly closing the gap.”
Although Team Wellington didn’t get their fairy-tale finish, Figuiera believed the competition – and its new format - was invaluable to the development of his side.
“This year has been fantastic. The home-and-away semi and final has really added a new twist and the fact that we’ve been able to travel and go to a new place and enjoy the islands make this competition really special.”
Golden Ball: Angel BERLANGA (Auckland City FC)
Golden Boot: Joao MOREIRA (Auckland City FC)
Golden Gloves: Enaut ZUBIKARAI (Auckland City FC)
Fairplay: Auckland City FC