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AS Magenta Score Late To Book Semi-final Berth

AS Magenta scored in the dying seconds to beat Ifira Black Bird FC 2-1 in the final group stage match at the OFC Men's Champions League 2024, a result that sees the New Caledonia side clinch a semi-final place.

The Vanuatu side, who have dealt with their travel issues admirably, knew victory was the only path to the semi-finals, whilst AS Magenta could be content with a draw to reach the final four.

In front of a loud and boisterous crowd, the opening exchanges were scrappy, with neither side able to hold onto possession and build dominance.

Ifira's John Wohale was an early threat, going close twice in the space of three minutes - his first effort flashing wide of the near post before a second attempt bounced into the ground and narrowly wide.

Gilbert Kugogne had an excellent chance to give the New Caledonian side a crucial lead but having been found with time and space in the penalty area, he could only muster a shot straight at goalkeeper Dick Sablan.

The first period burst into life in the latter exchanges, with a pair of own goals seeing the pendulum swinging back and forth.

AS Magenta took the lead when substitute Romarick Luepak's cross was inadvertently turned into his own net by Jacques Wanemut to open the scoring. Only four minutes later however and an almost carbon copy incident levelled matters - Johnathan Spokeyjack's low ball across the six yard box led to Romaric Walone scuffing an attempted clearance into the back of the net.

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Both sides went close in the opening 15 minutes of the second-half.

AS Magenta's Josua Hlemu neatly flicked an effort over the bar from a free-kick on the right, whipped in by Florian Gope. The Vanuatu side responded with a golden opportunity for Tonly Kalotang, whose close-range shot was deflected onto the crossbar by the onrushing Sablan.

Both sides threw everything they had in order to secure the result that would guarantee a place in Wednesday's semi-finals - a lack of composure ensuring the scoreboard remained untroubled in the second period as full-time loomed large.

A wonderful opportunity to secure the win for the New Caledonians fell the way of Germain Haewegene, who beat his man brilliantly, before rashly firing his effort well over with the goal at his mercy.

That winning goal would eventually come in the final seconds. With Ifira pushing up, Magenta caught them on the break, Romarick Luepak finding space to take a touch and drill a low effort into the far corner.

The result sees AS Magenta confirm a semi-final date with Auckland City FC, whilst Ifira Black Bird suffer a heartbreaking group stage exit.

Ifira Black Bird FC: 1 (Own Goal 43')
AS Magenta: 2 (Own Goal 39', Romarick LUEPAK 90+2')

HT: 1-1

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