Marist and Tefana have made strong starts to their 2017 OFC Champions League campaigns after securing identical 4-2 victories over Rewa and Erakor Golden Star respectively in the opening day of Group D action at Stade Pater in Tahiti this evening.
Coach Juliano Schmeling was pleased to see Marist etch their name in the history books with the first win for the club in the current incarnation of the regional club competition.
“I’m very happy for the club, Marist, and also for the Solomon Islands population,” he said.
“We’ve made a good first step in the competition against a very strong team who created a lot of trouble for us, but I’m happy as the final result came in our favour.”
Marist gave an early indication of their intentions when Andre Morosini put the ball in the back of the net after just three minutes of play.
Following that it seemed to be anyone’s game as both side’s tested the opposing defensive structure, and the goalkeepers.
Luck fell in favour of Rewa just ahead of the break as Marcelo Junior chipped the ball over Mango after an entertaining solo advance to draw his side level.
The second half got a little messy as the two teams desperately went in search of a winner, with three cautions handed out in the opening ten minutes of the half.
A yellow in the 62nd minute for defender Peniame Drova was followed by a red four minutes later leaving Rewa down a man, and Marist lining up a penalty.
Guilherme Guedes converted from the spot to put his side ahead and another four minutes later he was setting up Timothy Bakale for Marist’s third.
Like Drova before him, Diego Maximo saw red in the 80th minute after dropping an arm into the face of compatriot Guedes leaving Rewa with just nine players to see out the remaining ten minutes.
Marist let their guard drop slightly giving away a couple of free kicks just outside the penalty area and it was a well hit free kick from Amani Makoe which signalled a possible comeback from the Fijian side.
However Marist sealed the victory in the second minute of additional time when Guedes made a cheeky backheel flick past Simione Tamanisau to take the score to 4-2.
“I think letting in that goal in the second or third minute meant it was always going to be hard for us to catch up,” Rewa coach Marika Rodu said.
“I think the boys fought back well to score the equaliser but in the end discipline really cost us.”
Although his side got the win, Schmeling said they were well tested by their opponents.
“There were some moments in the second half where they worried us because they’re a good team – strong and very fast.
“But today my team showed me very strong mentality.”
In the late kick-off host club AS Tefana welcome Vanuatu’s competition debutants Erakor Golden Star.
The Vanuatu club champions showed pace from the outset as they raced into the Tefana box from kick-off.
However it was Tefana making more threatening advances into the opposition half testing keeper Serge Daniel early on.
Twenty minutes in, almost against the run of play, a low shot at goal from Tony Kaltack looked a relatively easy save for goalkeeper Mikael Roche, but somehow he let it slip under his fingers giving Erakor first points.
Tefana battled back, applying pressure on the Erakor backline and they finally got their break when a tackle from captain Brian Kaltack on Alvin Tehau had referee Matt Conger pointing to the spot.
The penalty was duly converted by Temarii Tinorua to leave the two sides locked at 1-1 when the half-time whistle sounded.
Tefana pulled ahead 11 minutes into the half when Sylvain Graglia headed in at the back post to give his side the lead for the first time in the match.
The evening got worse for the Ni-Vanuatu when a second caution for Brian Kaltack had him heading to the changing rooms early leaving Erakor with even more ground to make up.
A goal to Viritua Tiaiho extended the lead out to three in the 77th minute before Stanley Atani looked to put the match well out of reach.
A consolation prize of sorts came for Erakor in the final minute of additional time when a poor clearance from Roche was picked up by Tony Kaltack and sent between the posts to make it 4-2.
Tefana coach Sébastien Labayen was elated to claim the three points in what he deemed a very important encounter.
“As previously mentioned, this is a tough pool and it’s important to being this competition in the best possible manner,” he said.
“With only four teams in the group today’s match was like playing a round of 16 and we head to the round of eight followed by the quarter-final in the last group match as we build up to the semi-finals.
“I’m satisfied with the team as a whole, they played well and both mentally and physically we were ready for this match.”
Opposing coach Etienne Mermer shared his disappointment at relinquishing the lead but remains optimistic for the coming matches.
“Following the equaliser we started to lower our intensity, we started to relax we just can’t do that at this level,” Mermer said.
“We started well but some of the players didn’t pull their weight so we had to make some changes, and always in the same position.
“Now this match is in the past for us and everything could change in our favour in the second game.”
Group D will return to action at Stade Pater in Papeete on Tuesday 14 March with Erakor Golden Star taking on Marist at 6pm, followed by AS Tefana and Rewa at 9pm.