Soccer: Auckland progress to OFC final

Auckland City have advanced to the OFC Champions League final
Auckland City have advanced to the OFC Champions League final

Auckland City have advanced to the OFC Champions League final after they lost to Tahitian champions AS Pirae 2-1 today, but won the two-legged semi-final 4-2 on aggregate.

The OFC Champions earn qualification to the FIFA Club World Cup in Morocco and Auckland are now on the doorstep of their fourth consecutive trip.

Auckland will meet Vanuatu champions Amicale - a side they lost to in last month's qualifying tournament in Fiji - in a two-legged final starting next weekend in Port Vila.

After winning the first leg 3-0 at Kiwitea Street, Auckland were heavy favourites to progress, but got off to a horror start when Pirae midfielder Jimmy Tepa opened the scoring in the fourth minute.

It went from bad to worse for Auckland after 40 minutes when striker Naea Bennett doubled the home side's lead and made the impossible three-goal mountain suddenly look climbable.

But on the stroke of halftime Auckland's Portuguese import Joao Moreira pulled a critical goal back for the visitors and killed Pirae's hopes.

Moreira's strike meant that Pirae would need three second half goals to progress to the final and it proved an impossible task for the Tahitian champions, who finished the half scoreless.

In Saturday's semi-final Amicale progressed after scrapping out a 0-0 draw with Fijian champions Ba, winning the tie 2-1 on aggregate.

The OFC Champion will earn a minimum pay day of $US500,000 for their involvement at the Club World Cup where they will face the host nation Morocco's national league champions in a play-off round to make it to the quarter finals.

Auckland have made five appearances at the Club World Cup and had their best finish in 2009, finishing 5th after beating Egyptian champions Al Ahli 2-0 in the opening play-off match and African Champions TP Mazembe 3-2 in the playoff for fifth and sixth place.

AS Pirae 2 (Jimmy TEPA 4', Naea BENNETT 40')
Auckland City FC 1 (Joao MOREIRA 45')
Half-time: 2-1
(Auckland City FC win 4-2 in aggregate)

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