“It was a very tight game once again, very difficult. We had to come back from 1-0 down but I’m very happy that the boys kept playing with the same ideas once again and we didn’t crumble but showed character to come back again,” Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx says.
A proud Tribulietx praised his players’ perseverance, especially as the side looks toward the Morocco and the FIFA Club World Cup next month.
“I think we had three great chances in the first half and it was a cracking goal from Amicale to take the lead. The good thing for us is we kept creating the chances, we kept playing with the same idea.”
The first half proved a fairly even affair but it wasn’t until the 41st minute of the match that the Vanuatu visitors were finally able to edge ahead of their New Zealand-based rivals.
A great break from Michele Grazia saw the Amicale man create enough space for himself to set up Francois Sakama whose stunning strike was past Auckland City keeper Tamati Williams and into the roof of the net.
Aware they were in the chase the locals upped the ante and started heaping the pressure on after the break. They finally got the goal they were after in the 63rd minute when Ryan de Vries set up Argentinian Emiliano Tade who laid claim to the Golden Ball with a stunning strike from the edge of the box.
Almost 15 minutes later the FIFA Club World Cup-bound side had their lead courtesy of the impressive and industrious de Vries who played a one-two with Tim Payne before chipping over Amicale keeper Chikau Mansale.
With a minute of additional time to go Amicale went down to just ten men as lofty striker Osea Vakatalesau picked up his second yellow card in the Auckland City corner following a dodgy tackle.
It was a disappointing end to what has been a thrilling tournament for a reworked Amicale side.
“Of course it’s a bit disappointing we didn’t come away with a win but I can’t fault the team’s performance. We’re going through a rebuilding phase and I mean the boys did fantastically today,” says technical advisor Anthony Pisano.
“We were quite happy with what we did this week, we’ve exceeded our expectations for this week and the boys lived up to their performances and we’re really happy.”
Just ahead of the final Busaiteen claimed third place with a 3-0 victory over age group side Singapore U-23, but they were made to work for the win.
It took two substitutions and over 65 minutes for Busaiteen to break through Singapore’s defence as the young side upped their game for their final match at the OFC President’s Cup.
Substitute Isa Alroomi, who replaced Friday’s hat-trick man Mohamed Ajaj, made an immediate impact, sneaking in at the back post and placing the ball past Syazwan Buhari in goal for Singapore U-23.
Three minutes later Hesham Nayem cut in from the left and unleashed an unstoppable strike from 23 yards out in the 70th minute to extend the lead. The third and final goal was another stunner from Nayem as he picked the ball up on the left hand side, skipped past the defender and shot.
Busaiteen midfielder Mujtaba Malek was pleased to pick up third place in the competition.
“The first half was a tough game because Singapore killed all the space. They didn’t give us space but we tried to open them in the second half and after we scored we did what we wanted,” he says.
“I’ve enjoyed it here very much. It’s a fantastic moment that we’ve had here, especially when we came for the UNICEF festival and visited the kids.”
For Subramani Shunmugham and Singapore’s U-23 it was disappointing not to get a final win, but an excellent development opportunity for his squad.
“It was definitely a much improved performance but unfortunately the result doesn’t show that really,” he says.
“It’s been a good experience for these young boys. Now they will know what it’s like to play professional football, and what international football is. With each experience hopefully they can bring the positive back to Singapore and continue from there.”
In the day’s opening match Bodden Town secured their first win of the competition, a 3-0 victory at the expense of the Fiji U-20s.
It was a welcome result for the Cayman Islands club which travelled more than 14,000km to take part in this inaugural competition and certainly captain Ramon Sealy is pleased to be going home with some points.
“The other games you so the not-so-good side of Bodden Town where we didn’t knock the ball around as much as we wanted but today we knocked it and used our flanks to our abilities so that was a good result for us and we’re glad we got a victory today,” Sealy says.
The opening goal came almost against the run of play as a Fiji defender passed the ball towards his own goal. Emmanuel Brown was there to collect and fired in from just outside the box, finding the bottom corner in the 29th minute.
That bottom corner proved popular as Theron Wood struck low with his left to give Bodden Town a 2-0 lead less than ten minutes after the break. Jonathan Ebanks took the tally to three with a close range effort to seal the victory, three points and that fifth place position in the tournament rankings.
For both sides it has been a learning experience as they test themselves against some higher level opponents.
“The tournament has been a success in terms of our development,” Sealy says.
“It’s showed us our flaws and our weaknesses and we’re going to work on them and also improve on our strengths as well. It also showed us different styles of play from the other teams which we can incorporate into our style of play in the future.”
For Ravinesh Kumar it’s another step in the Fiji side’s journey to the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
“This is not the end of football for these boys and for Fiji. Each time they play games they will learn lessons,” Kumar says.
“I noticed in each of these three games that after 25 minutes we concede a goal. That means that their concentration level is only up until the 25th minute and that’s something we need to work on.
“That’s why we are in this tournament here, to see our mistakes and correct them before the World Cup next year.”
In the individual awards runners-up Amicale midfielder Panagiotis Nikas was awarded the Golden Ball for player of the tournament after some inspired performances.
Auckland City striker Emiliano Tade took home the Golden Boot with four goals in three games. Bodden Town goalkeeper Ramon Sealy was awarded the Golden Gloves thanks to a series of outstanding saves over the course of the tournament and runners-up Amicale also took home the Fairplay Award.