A late comeback has seen Auckland City keep their hopes alive for a sixth straight Oceania Champions League title.
Needing a draw against Vanuatu side Amicale to progress to the semifinals, the seven-time champions recorded three late goals to snare a 3-1 victory.
The favourites had earlier found themselves in serious danger after former Auckland City player Adam Dickinson had opened the scoring against his old club.
That lead held steady until only twenty minutes remained, but a remarkable ending ensured City’s safe progression through to face French Polynesian team AS Tefana in the semifinals.
It was the second straight game in which Auckland’s resilience was called into question, after they required an 89th minute winner to defeat the Lae City Dwellers in their earlier group match.
For seventy minutes yesterday, the hosts were peppering Amicale keeper Mauro Boerchio with no reward, but the pressure eventually told as Darren White found a way through.
The former Canterbury United player met a deep cross from Takuya Iwata, rifling it home to put Auckland in control of the proceedings.
Auckland’s superior goal difference meant that Amicale had to find a winner to progress to the semifinals, and their eagerness worked against them as Ryan De Vries slotted home a match sealing goal in the 90th minute.
Joao Moreira finished the match with a flourish in the fourth minute of injury time, pouncing on a shocking defensive blunder to wrap up the 3-1 victory and book Auckland’s date with Tefana on Wednesday.
Team Wellington take on AS Magenta from New Caledonia in the other semifinal, with both sides favoured to meet in a rematch of the 2015 final, won by Auckland on penalties.
The winner of the tournament gets a trip to the lucrative 2016 FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
– NZ Herald