The ‘Group of Death’ was really tough; it can be proven when we realize the current OFC Champions League winners Hienghène Sport suffered 10 goals in three matches and is already knocked-out of the tournament still in the group stage. Eastern Suburbs was too strong for a very different Hienghène Sport.
The team of Felix Tagawa did not feature the experienced players Roy Kayara and Bertrand Kaï – something not expected for the clash against the New Zealand champions, but that shows the situation is not good for the New Caledonians. If you check the line-up of the only match Hienghène Sport played in the last FIFA Clubs World Cup against Al-Sadd, you will see a number of differences: no Bertrand Kaï, no Georges Bearuné, no Brice Dahité, no Cédric Sansot – just to name a few. The young Nelson Kaï, Georges Wakanumuné and Rayan Oue were introduced in the team, but Eastern Suburbs were too strong for them.
Just at the 3rd minute of the game, the striker Jake Mechell had a clear chance that went wide, but at the 11th minute of play the prolific goalscorer Martin Bueno found the nets again with a fantastic header after a well-taken corner to open the scoreline. Six minutes later, the same Bueno flicked the ball to Reid Drake, the midfielder was in an one-on-one situation with the opposition goalkeeper and lobbed perfectly Rocky Nyikeine to double the lead of the New Zealand side.
Hienghène Sport thrown themselves upfront, but could not really create any trouble for the strong defensive system made by the coach Tony Readings. It was Martin Bueno that hit the woodwork with a fantastic free-kick still in the first half.
The story of the game did not change after the break: Eastern Suburbs managed their lead without many efforts, while Hienghène had no creativity in attack despite having good spells of possession with the ball upfront.
Another defensive mistake – one of the various of the match committed by Hienghène – was capitalized by Eastern Suburbs: Martin Bueno received upfront and scored the third for his team in the process, the sixth of the Uruguyan in the OFC Champions League – the top goalscorer so far.
The acccount was finished at injury time, when the substitute Matthew Palmer made a very good run in the flank to set up Jake Mechell in the box, he rolled the ball for the Englishman Adam Thurston to find the top left-corner of Rocky Nyikeine to score the fourth of the Lilywhites and seal his side spot in the knock-out stage of the OFC Champions League.
Eastern Suburbs is virtually the winner of the group A – Galaxy FC will need to beat Hekari United by 3-0 to surpass the goal difference of the Lilywhites to top the group, if it does not happen, the New Zealand side will host one of the quarterfinals of the current edition of the OFC Champions League.
Hienghène will need to regroup and now focus in the Mobil Super Ligue – the top-tier of football in New Caledonia – and learn from the several mistakes committed in the three matches in Papua New Guinean soil. A very different team than the one were used to, very different from the champions of 2019.
You can watch the goals from Hienghène Sport 0-4 Eastern Suburbs in the video below: