Auckland City FC have qualified for the OFC Champions League 2023, beating Wellington Olympic 5-3 at Kiwitea St, Auckland. The result sees Auckland advance on a 6-4 aggregate.
The home of the defending OFC Champions League champions turned on a nice day for the crucial game, and it was Auckland City FC that made the slightly better start. They imposed their patient style much more firmly than they did last weekend, with Albert Riera clearly having told his 4-3-3 formation to maintain possession across the back and draw Olympic up to open some gaps.
However, there was nothing the could do when referee Calvin Kawana-Waugh awarded Olympic a penalty in the 15th minute, after a clear foul on Hamish Watson by Michael den Heijer. Ben Mata stepped up and blasted the penalty kick past Connor Treacy to open the scoring.
It didn’t take long for a response. Cam Howieson showed all his experience and class to chip a lovely ball over the top and onto the feet of Liam Gillion, who helped it over the top of Scott Basalaj to lock it up at 1-1.
The pulsating nature of the half continued when Olympic pulled ahead again. This time it was Watson who scored after a deflection off Gerard Garriga left him with room to move in the middle, then his beautiful strike from outside the box that again saw Treacy on the turf in despair as the ball hit the back of the Auckland City net.
The half ended with a nasty collision between Watson and Treacy that left both needing attention from the medical staff.
If the crowd thought the action would slow down in the second half, they were mistaken. Watson banged in his second to make the score 3-1 to Olympic and set up a massive upset. However, Emiliano Tade had other ideas.
The Auckland City FC star had a stunning period, scoring in the 74th, 77th and 87th minutes to rip the game away from Olympic. His first was a curling free kick to the far post, then second a penalty. He also assisted Angus Kilkolly’s 85th minute goal that put Auckland City FC ahead, then sealed the result with another calmly taken penalty two minutes later.
The result now locks in the eight sides that will contest the OFC Champions League 2023: Hekari United FC (PNG), Tiga Sport (NCL), AS Pirae (TAH), Ifira Black Bird (VAN), Suva FC (FIJ), Solomon Warriors (SOL), Lupe Ole Soaga (SAM) and Auckland City FC (NZL).
The tournament will be held in Vanuatu in May 2023.