Soccer: NZ pair in O League frame

Auckland City need only a draw to make semis with Waitakere after Dragon stymied.

Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx faces "the most important game of the season". Photo / Natalie Slade
Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx faces "the most important game of the season". Photo / Natalie Slade

Both New Zealand teams have a chance of qualifying for the O-League soccer semifinals after Tahiti's Dragon were surprisingly held to a 1-1 draw at home against lowly Mont-Dore of New Caledonia.

The result means Waitakere have already qualified for the semifinals but they will want to beat Mont-Dore in Noumea on Sunday to ensure they top their group and get a favourable semifinal draw.

Auckland City now need only a draw in their last group match against Dragon in Papeete, also on Sunday (NZT), to progress with Waitakere.

Dragon had been expected to easily dispose of their fellow franco-phones, especially as Mont-Dore had not picked up a point before that.

They will now take on Auckland without influential captain Nicolas Vallar, who is suspended after being sent off in the match.

Dragon hold something of a psychological edge after defeating Auckland 3-1 at Kiwitea St - becoming the first Pacific Islands team to beat a New Zealand opponent on home soil in the process.

Auckland are also coming off the back of consecutive defeats and have never suffered three successive losses in the O-League.

"We have to face this match as a final, that's the only way to go," Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx said. "It is going to be the most important game of the season for this club.

"The situation will have to bring the best out of us to make sure we are competitive. Obviously, what happens through the game will tell us whether we have to readjust something or not but we will approach it with the same ideas. Dragon are a strong, organised side and we lost to them last time but every game is different."

Auckland will be without Gustavo Souto, who fractured a collarbone in the 1-0 loss to Waitakere last weekend, and midfielder Chris Bale misses the trip because of work commitments. Midfielder Darren White looks on track to recover from an ankle sprain and Argentine striker Emiliano Tade is also available again after returning from a knee injury.

Waitakere disposed of Mont-Dore 3-1 in the previous encounter in New Zealand but the performance was far from convincing and Mont-Dore will have renewed confidence after their draw with Dragon. Waitakere will also be without Fijian international Roy Krishna and former All White Allan Pearce, who are both suspended.

Group A has already been decided, with Fiji's Ba and Vanuatu's Amicale securing spots in the semifinals.


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