Auckland City are a step closer to claiming their second OFC O-League crown following a 2-1 victory against Vanuatu’s Amicale in Port Vila.
A fortuitous winner eight minutes from time by substitute Luis Corrales left Auckland well placed for the return leg at their Kiwitea St home in a fortnight.
A crowd of 7,000 filled the tight confines of the PVL Stadium in the capital for the first appearance by a Vanuatu club in the Oceania final for a decade.
Auckland, perennial challengers for the continental crown, started as favourites and included two players from New Zealand’s 2010 FIFA World Cup™ squad, Ivan Vicelich and Dave Mulligan, in their starting side.
The visitors were a goal to the good on 22 minutes after Manel Exposito was bundled over in the penalty area before the same player converted the spot-kick.
Amicale pushed hard for an equaliser from the commencement of the second half, and they were eventually rewarded when the O-League’s leading goalscorer Fenedy Masauvakalo swivelled inside the box and fired a left foot shot past goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley.
The Vanuatuans were looking to repeat the shock 3-0 first-leg success achieved by Papua New Guinea’s Hekari United over Auckland neighbours Waitakere United 12 months ago.
However, against the run of play, Corrales grabbed the all-important winner just four minutes after entering the fray. Corrales initially failed to connect cleanly with a deep cross, only for defender Sese Ala to blast his attempted clearance straight into the grounded attacker with the ball rebounding into the net.
The winner of the OFC O-League will represent Oceania at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2011 in December.