Team Wellington win maiden OFC Champions League
Auckland City’s continental reign had stretched back to 2011
Team Wellington will make their debut in this year’s FIFA Club World Cup
One has to go all the way back to before the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ for the last time a club other than Auckland City were crowned OFC Champions League winners. In the interim, Auckland's run of seven successive victories eclipsed the mark set by Real Madrid’s storied team of the 1950s to set a record sequence of continental triumphs that is likely to stand the test of time.
The New Zealander' incredible seven-year reign came to a halt at the hands of compatriots Team Wellington, a side they had defeated in each of the past three finals.
Team Wellington edged the Aucklanders 2-2 on away goals following a gripping two-legged semi-final. They then dispensed with Fiji’s Lautoka 10-3 on aggregate in the final, after a record 6-0 scoreline in the first leg at home.
The team from the New Zealand capital, which was formed as recently as 2004, are on a clear upward trajectory after winning the past two domestic championships. They will end 2018 with a maiden appearance at the FIFA Club World Cup, a competition which fellow amateurs Auckland City graced with distinction. Most notably, the Navy Blues’ pushed South American champions San Lorenzo to extra time in the 2014 semi-final, before finishing third.
The Honours Champions: Team Wellington (NZL) Runners-up: Lautoka (FIJ) Best player: Roy Kayara (Team Wellington) Top goalscorers: Emiliano Tade (Auckland City), Angus Kilkolly (Team Wellington) - 8 goals Best goalkeeper: Enaut Zubikarai (Auckland City)
While Team Wellington grabbed the silverware, there were numerous other headline achievements during the campaign.
Almost predictably, Auckland City created their share. Their competition record 16-match winning streak ended in the opening leg of the semi-final. And the return encounter saw the goal of the Navy Blues' Spanish shot-stopper Enaut Zubikarai finally breached after 1079 minutes.
Lautoka’s charge to the final saw them became the first non-New Zealand club to feature in the decider for four years, and the first Fijian side to do so since 2007.
Though the competition remained at 16 teams, this season included a newly-created quarter-final stage. Notable among the last-eight were debutants Nalkutan, who hail from the remote Vanuatu island of Tanna.
Wellington’s time to shine Lautoka had claimed tough away wins in Tahiti and Solomon Islands during the knockout stage, but the away leg in Wellington proved their undoing. After holding Team Wellington to a 1-0 half-time lead, the Fijians fell apart during the second half, conceding five goals and picking up a red card.
That result effectively left the final over as a contest, but Lautoka came from two goals down to be level in the return. However, Angus Kilkolly netted a late winner to grab a share of the golden boot award in the process.
“I said in the semi-final that this team has got so much character, and even in the most difficult situations they can grind a result out and that’s the sign of a champion team,” said Team Wellington’s English coach Jose Figueira.
“I’m delighted and we’re still absorbing everything, but after a season of tremendous hard work, to finally clinch the big one is a tremendous feeling.”
Team Wellington’s debut in the FIFA Club World Cup will be against the winner of the UAE Arabian Gulf League, Al Ain.