Soccer: Auckland City aim for OFC Champions League second chance

Auckland City players celebrate against Waitakere United earlier this season. Photo / Shane Wenzlick
Auckland City players celebrate against Waitakere United earlier this season. Photo / Shane Wenzlick

Flirting with elimination after a morale shaking OFC Champions League defeat to Amicale, Auckland City FC goalkeeper Tamati Williams says the Navy Blues must seize second chance in AS Pirae showdown on Saturday at Kiwitea Street.

The talented All Whites squad keeper was crestfallen when Amicale's Kensi Tangis headed home the winner at Churchill Park 11 days ago, but resilient Williams believes Auckland City FC can bounce back.

"One thing I have noticed in my time at Auckland City FC is how well the team staff and club use adversity to motivate for greater success. In a way the Amicale defeat could be a blessing, a little reality check, going in to the final stages. We are hoping to use this and go on and win this tournament again," he said.

Williams recalls that loss pragmatically, the Navy Blues now into the seventh month of a long season that has taken in far flung cities from Dunedin to Barcelona, Agadir to Singapore, back to Auckland then Lautoka.

"I think there was an element of tired legs and minds that led to a couple of mistakes made by all of us that were uncharacteristic and at times we were a little bit impatient against Amicale," he said.

One carrot dangling in front of Auckland City FC is a fourth consecutive OFC Champions League title and a return to Morocco for another FIFA Club World Cup appearance.

Milestones are fine, Williams says, but not the only motivating factor as such.

"From my point of view we don't look at the season as a means to break records. We set out each season to win everything we can. In that sense we want to win the tournament but I think four-in-a-row is less on our minds.

"If you look back at every year of the last three, the Oceania title has been won by an Auckland City FC squad with different personnel.

"It's always a similar group, but with subtle differences, so each title win has had it's own unique challenges both internally and externally around the squad environment," he said.

Williams also says one significant factor stands between the New Zealand champions and the final - AS Pirae.

The Tahitians have won one and lost two in three previous clashes with Auckland City FC but can point to competitive wins over YoungHeart Manawatu in the OFC Champions League semi-finals in 2006 and that stirring 3-1 win over Waitakere United in Lautoka on April 15.

Former OFC Player of the Year, Marama Vahirua, Tahitian internationals Naea Bennett and Raimana Li Fung Kuee, are the clear danger men for Auckland City FC.

The Navy Blues stopper is under no illusions of the task ahead.

"We know that AS Pirae has the capacity and potential to be dangerous. We definitely won't be taking them lightly. Our aim for the first leg is to win. No game will be easy from here on in," he said.

The match kicks off at 2pm on Saturday 26 April at Kiwitea Street, Sandringham.

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