Auckland City have given themselves a comfortable cushion heading into the second leg of the OFC Champions League semifinals after dispatching AS Pirae 3-0 at Kiwitea Street this afternoon.
Auckland's bid to represent Oceania at the Fifa Club World Cup for a fourth straight year seemed dead and buried after losing to Amicale in this month's qualifying tournament in Fiji, but they were handed a second life when crosstown rivals Waitakere United fell to Pirae in their final group game.
That left Auckland to advance to the final four and they made the most of that second life today with a comprehensive victory over the Tahitian champions.
A first-half strike from Emiliano Tade eased early nerves at Kiwitea St and the home side doubled their advantage with 20 minutes to play when Joao Moreira connected with a low header.
Pirae never took a backward step and searched for an away goal that would have provided real hope heading into next weekend's return leg, coming within inches of the target from a 90th minute freekick.
But the Tahitians were then made to pay for that miss when Tade streaked away for a stunning solo goal in injury time to all but kill off the tie and seal Auckland's passage into next month's one-off final.
Auckland coach Ramon Tribulietx was satisfied with the three-goal advantage but believed his side would still require an away goal in Tahiti to make sure of matters.
"We know that if we get an away goal up there then we have an advantage, but again they're a very good side, very strong so up there it's going to be difficult,'' he said. "The heat and the field are completely different so we need to make sure that we compete really well up there, otherwise we're going to struggle.''
Tribulietx and his charges certainly didn't struggle at Kiwitea St and the coach, who has thrown his name in the hat for the vacant All Whites job, was pleased with the performance of his players.
"I think we played a very good game, with the ball and without the ball. We knew they were a very dangerous team, they have some very good players and they can capitalise from scraps and transitions, so we knew we had to be alert.''
The other semifinal will see Fijian side Ba host Amicale of Vanuatu in the first leg tomorrow afternoon.