Football

Lae City captain Raymond Gunemba celebrates one of his four goals in Group A

With plenty of questions still unanswered, Kone’s Stade Yoshida will be the place to witness how Match Day 3 unfolds in determining the final outcome of Group A at the 2019 OFC Champions League.

Hosts Hienghene Sport have already secured their passage to the next phase of the competition while the stakes couldn’t be higher for Tahiti’s AS Tefana and Lae City Dwellers FC from Papua New Guinea with both teams still in the running to grab the second qualifying spot on offer in the knock-out stage.

Despite Malampa Revivors’ Champions League hopes are over the team from Vanuatu will be desperate to finish on a high note when they kick off Saturday’s action against an AS Tefana side which will need all three points to remain in the hunt for a second place finish.

Currently sitting in third in the group with a draw and a defeat the Tahitians not only need to beat Malampa they also must do it handsomely in order to improve their goal difference but coach Frank Mathieu is aware even that might not be enough.

“Our destiny is no longer in our hands in this Champions League tournament.

“First of all we need to beat Malampa by at least three goals and then we must hope for Hienghene Sport to do us a favour by beating the Papua New Guinean champions,” the Tefana coach explained.

With his side only finding the net three times in their previous two outings Mathieu is under no illusion about the task ahead.

“As far as our match goes, we will have to work on our finishing in the final third because ever since the start of the tournament we had problems with converting our opportunities in front of goal.

“We will need to find a way to correct that if we want to qualify for the quarter-finals, which is still very much a realistic target for us,” he added.

Following two disappointing losses Malampa Revivors have had a tournament to forget to date, however with their pride on the line, coach Kaison Maki is optimistic his troops can end their campaign in a positive fashion.

“It’s another game, we have to motivate our players and put them back into shape, it’s our last game and we are looking forward to do our best.

“We don’t want to end up at the bottom of the group and a win would be a big morale boost for our fans back home,” insisted Maki.

Nevertheless the Malampa coach knows it won’t be easy against the Tahitians who will be fighting for their tournament survival.

“We expect Tefana to come hard against us, of course they have to try their best to win the game and we have to do our best to do the same,” he said.

Although their passage to the next stage has already been secured, local favourites Hienghene Sport will be eager to top the group which would guarantee them home ground advantage in their one-off quarter final.

Riding the wave of local support Felix Kagawa’s men have been the team to beat so far in the tournament but they could face their biggest challenge yet in the form of Lae City Dwellers.

Kagawa insists his players will not underestimate the threat posed by their final opponent.

“Like I said all the teams here in Kone are the champions of their own country and when you are a winning competitor you enter the field with the mindset of a winner.

“We have to be well prepared for our final match, which we take very seriously against a very stylish and dangerous Papua New Guinean team.

“They showed their quality and experience against Tefana, and of course they will want to win, or at least to draw to secure their qualification berth, so we will need to be on guard,” explained the Hienghene coach.

By the time Lae City take the field against Hienghene, the Papua New Guineans will know exactly what is required from them to finish in the top two.

A draw will definitely be enough for them, even a defeat depending on the result of the previous match between Tefana and Malampa, but with a win they could leapfrog their New Caledonian rivals in to top position in the final group standings.

Coach Peter Gunemba is expecting a match in which both sides will target victory.

“We want to win and Hienghene will want to win too, they are a good side we saw them play and that gives me a fair idea of how we can sort ourselves out before we play against them,” he said.

Lae City have conceded early goals against both Malampa and Tefana and Gunemba is adamant his side can’t afford to make the same mistake against the hosts.

“The defence is still a problem, that is the area we always talk about, we need to strengthen our defence because when we start the game we want to be perfect and when we score we want to defend it, we don’t want easy goals against us,” Gunemba said.

Gunemba’s son Raymond has been in inspired form for Lae City leading his side from the front setting up goals as well as scoring four of his side’s seven so far in the tournament and the coach believes his captain could hold the key again to their success.

“Raymond is the key player we rely on, both at club and international level.

“He can create from nothing and when he he is there he gives us all a lot of confidence, he is a player everyone can pin their hopes on, there are other players too of course but he is the captain to lead his team to victory,” insisted the Lae City coach.

OFC

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