23 Apr 2016

High stakes in OFC football final

10:44 am on 23 April 2016

The fifth encounter between Auckland City and Team Wellington this season has the highest stakes yet as they vie for the Oceania Champions League title and a place at the world club champs.

The two teams square off in the OFC final in Albany today, with the match kicking off at 2:00pm.

Defending champions Auckland City are chasing a sixth title in a row and a record eighth in total while Team Wellington are aiming for their maiden crown after narrowly missing out in last year's final in Fiji.

The 2015 title decider was only decided on penalties after the scores were level at the end of extra time.

In their latest encounter however Team Wellington got the better of their Auckland rivals winning the ASB Premiership.

Both sides' road to the final has been relatively comfortable.

Auckland City topped Group A with victories over Lae City Dwellers, Solomon Warriors and Amicale before beating AS Tefana 4-2 in to book their place in the final.

The Navy Blues' big game experience at Champions League level is a significant advantage but Ramon Tribulietx insists his players are under enormous pressure to defend their title year after year.

Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx.

Ramon Tribulietx. Photo: Photosport

"With success the expectations are also growing and it doesn't get any easier," he says.

"Experience counts for something but we also have a lot of young players. The nerves will be there for all of us on the day."

"Wellington is team that is well put together. In my opinion they are very direct they are happy to sit back and defend but they are also dangerous on the counter. They have players like Tom Jackson, Luis Corrales and Ben Harris who suit that style of play. It will be a tough match."

Meanwhile the New Zealand champions' campaign looked perhaps a little less convincing.

Team Wellington were made to work hard for their wins against Suva FA and AS Lössi before hitting their straps to ease past Hekari United in the top-of-the table Group B decider.

Team Wellington's Steven Gulley and Magenta's Noel Kaudre compete for the ball durnig the OFC semi-final.

Team Wellington's Steven Gulley and Magenta's Noel Kaudre compete for the ball durnig the OFC semi-final. Photo: Photosport

While the 4-0 win over the 2010 Champions was a big confidence booster, Matt Calcott's side produced another battling performance to edge past Magenta with a nervy 2-0 win in the semi-final.

Admittedly Wellington were missing the services of a couple of key players including suspended captain Bill Robertson and striker Ben Harris who is nursing a leg injury.

Calcott will be pleased to have Robertson back but he admits Harris is still in doubt for the final.

"Ben Harris has been fantastic for us but he has a bad leg injury. The physios are working hard on his fitness. It will go down to the wire," Calcott says.

"Nevertheless, we proved in the semi that we have a good depth and in this team everybody contributes," he said.

"Auckland City are the benchmark of Oceania football but we have proved over the past 12 months that we are not too far behind.

"Ideally we'll have a full strength squad for Saturday, but if not, we showed it in the semi that we have plenty of depth and everybody in this team can make a valuable contribution.