AS Dragon and Solomon Warriors qualified for the quarterfinals of the OFC Champions League after a 2-1 win to Warriors over the host club confirmed them both in the top two of Group B in Tahiti on Saturday (local time).
The three points lifted Warriors above Erakor Golden Star who were held to a 2-2 draw by AS Lossi in the opening match, but the Honiara outfit couldn’t find an additional goal to leapfrog Dragon at the top of the table and claim home advantage when the quarterfinal draw is made.
Instead, Dragon claim that honour by merit of an additional goal scored throughout the group stage after finishing level on points and goal difference with the Solomon Island champions.
A four-goal victory for Golden Star over Lossi would have been enough to book a quarterfinal place regardless of the result in the second match and the Vanuatu clubs made a perfect start in that quest, with Bernard Daniel scoring in just the third minute.
But Lossi fought back through a Mone Womowe goal just before the half hour mark on the back of an aggressive approach that put Erakor off their stride and adjust their sights on securing any sort of victory.
Jonathan Kakou rattled the crossbar in the 34th minute with an audacious attempt from just short of halfway as Lossi pressed their advantage and a second goal eventually came for the Noumea club five minute later as defensive indecision allowed Damien Wanapopo to poke the ball past Serge Daniel.
Erakor were brighter in the second half and drew level through Barry Mansale six minutes after the restart but couldn’t manufacture a winning goal to put more pressure on Solomon Warriors.
Erakor coach Obed Jimmy was clearly disappointed with his players’ application in such a vital match.
“After the second match, maybe we were tired. The game isn’t what we saw today. That’s not our game,” he said.
“It wasn’t the preparation that was lacking, it was mentality. We’d seen the other teams beating Lossi well – for me it wasn’t easy it was hard. We can play harder but if the mind doesn’t function properly, it’s not good enough.”
AS Lossi coach Victor Wejieme was pleased to grab a first OFC Champions League point after five previous defeats for the club at this level.
“Firstly, I want to congratulate Erakor Golden Star because they played well today. My players also played well. We didn’t want to return home like that, we wanted a win or if not a win, at least what we achieved today.”
Wejieme said the campaign had whet the appetite for a return to Oceania’s premier club competition.
“We’ll try to be among the best this year in order to make it into the Champions League in the future.”
The OFC Champions League now takes a week-long breather before resuming with Group D action from Honiara’s Lawson Tama Stadium on February 24 followed by Group C from Trusts Stadium in Auckland a day later.