In a fiercely-fought and tight affair, clear chances were hard to come by but second-half goals to David Mulligan and Daniel Koprivcic proved enough for Auckland to take a slim advantage into the decisive leg, set to take place in Papeete on May 12. Tefana, who are yet to lose at home in the campaign, will feel their hopes are still very much alive though after substitute Axel Williams struck a crucial away goal with 20 minutes remaining.
Auckland coach Ramon Tribulietx is pleased to hold the upper hand going into the 2nd Leg but knows how costly the concession of that goal could prove.
“I think we played well and had a lot of chances,” he said.
“We couldn’t play our style because they are physically very strong and defended well. We created at least five one-on-ones with the goalkeeper but only managed to put away two. We’ve got to be happy with that but unfortunately we conceded that goal which is going to give them a bit of an advantage for the game up there,” he added.
“At least we won the game and that’s what we have to try to do up there as well. An away goal is always important but it doesn’t mean we can’t score away ourselves. If we play the same way I’m pretty sure we’ll create the same chances. I would’ve preferred not to concede obviously but that’s the reality and now we have to relax and focus on the next game.”
The first half was evenly contested and saw very few chances created but, when one finally did arrive just before the break, City spurned the opportunity to go ahead. The clock had already ticked over into injury time when Adam Dickinson broke into the box and squared for Spaniard Manel Exposito but goalkeeper Xavier Samin did well to spread himself at the striker’s feet and save the effort.
City were again their own worst enemy in the 55th minute when they were awarded an indirect free kick in the penalty area after Samin handled a back pass. Mulligan and Exposito had clearly put together a plan that would result in an effort on goal but got their wires crossed as they tried to implement it and no City player was able to shoot before Tefana cleared.
But the home side made no mistake a minute later, Mulligan atoning for his indiscretion moments earlier by slotting home from close range after Samin could only palm a low Koprivcic effort into his path. City looked on course for Japan 2012 when the lead was extended on the hour mark, captain Ivan Vicelich nodding an Ian Hogg cross to Koprivcic, whose excellent first touch gave him the chance to sidefoot past Samin for 2-0.
Any hopes of taking a large lead to Papeete were dashed though as City failed to give the home fans more to cheer and instead it was the visitors that struck. Striker Williams had entered the field just seconds earlier and made an immediate impact when he latched onto a bouncing pass from Alvin Tehau and lofted it over goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley to score one of the most important goals in Tefana’s history.
“Our first objective was to earn a good result here to keep our chances alive in the second game,” coach Laurent Heinis said.
“We knew we had to approach the Auckland team with a lot of respect because they have some very talented players. I have to congratulate our players because it was hard to come back when they scored the second goal. The goal we scored puts us in a good position and it came as a just reward for all our efforts.”
The 2nd Leg of the 2012 O-League Final will take place on the artificial turf at Stade Louis Ganivet in Papeete, Tahiti, on Saturday 12 May. The aggregate winner of the final will qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2012, a feat that brings with it a minimum US$500,000 pay cheque.