Oceania: Kiwi top two set standard in O-League
Whilst the UEFA Champions League continues to take centre stage in Europe as the competition nears the end of its group phase, the equivalent tournament in the Oceania region is two rounds into the 2011-12 O-League and, as usual, the two New Zealand representatives are setting the pace for all of the others to follow.
Defending champions Auckland City and their compatriots Waitakere United have won five of the last six tournaments between them since Australian clubs decided to move to the Asian Champions League set-up in 2006. The former team won their third title in last season’s competition by defeating Vanuatu champions Amicale FC 6-1 on aggregate. In this year’s tournament, following last weekend’s round of games, Auckland lead the Group B table with a full compliment of six points from two games and a two point gap separating them from Amicale FC who they must face in their next game on January 18th, a game moved to accommodate Auckland City’s participation in the oncoming FIFA Club World Cup in December. Matchday 2 saw Auckland defeat Papua New Guinea champions Hekari United with a 2-0 victory thanks to goals from Manel Expósito and Emiliano Tade ensuring that the New Zealanders go into their forthcoming FIFA Club World Cup qualification match against the host Japanese champions, as yet undecided, in good spirits.
Waitakere United, two-time winners of the O-League competition, do have a much easier group and are huge favourites to progress from Group A as winners. In their opening game they saw off the weak challenge of French Polynesia outfit Tefana FC with a massive 10-0 scoreline, Fijian international Roy Krishna helping himself to five of his team’s ten goals. Waitakere’s game last weekend saw a more sober 4-0 victory over Fijian champions Ba with four different scorers – Jone Vesikula, Ross McKenzie, Chris Bale and Sean Lovemore – finding the back of the net for the Kiwis who are expected to stroll their way into this season’s two-legged final which take place in April/May 2012. Their next group game comes against New Caledonian side AS Mont-Dore on December 3rd and nothing less than three points will satisfy United who are desperate for another shot at the Oceania crown having failed to win any of the last three tournaments including the shock 4-2 aggregate defeat to Hekari United in the 2009-10 campaign.