A draw would have seen them set up a repeat of tonight’s match against Amicale however the Vanuatu club’s campaign is over with the defeat as they miss out on the best runners-up spot on goal difference.
Elsewhere, the Solomon Warriors have finished their campaign on a high following a nine-goal thriller to defeat Papua New Guinean debutants Lae City Dwellers 5-4.
Auckland City’s top-of-the table clash with Amicale was one of the most anticipated games of the group stages.
The two sides are well acquainted having played each other on numerous occasions over the past three years with Auckland City taking the head-to-head advantage into today’s encounter.
The Navy Blues looked comfortable in the early stages, patiently passing the ball around to settle into their possession-based style. But despite being in control for long periods they were unable to create clear-cut chances.
The defending champions found themselves on the back-foot in the 25th minute when former teammate Adam Dickinson brought the ball down in the box before turning and placing his shot past goalkeeper Diego Rivas.
Auckland City came close to responding five minutes later but Vanuatu keeper Mauro Boerchio did well to keep out two headers in a row from Portuguese danger-man Joao Moreira,
Ramon Tribulietx’s men have looked the better for the reminder of the half but were forced to go into the break trailing 1-0.
The second half continued in a familiar fashion with the Navy Blues controlling possession and restricting Amicale to counter-attacks.
The seven-time champions’ patience finally paid dividends in the 71st minute when a deep cross from Takuya Iwata found Darren White who cut it onto his left before driving into the far corner.
Not content with the stalemate the Navy Blues pushed numbers forward in search of a winner that would prevent them from having to meet Amicale again in three days’ time.
Ryan De Vries and Moreira both looked increasingly dangerous against the tiring Amicale defence before one cap All White sent a low shot rocketing past Boerchio in the 90th minute to make it 2-1.
There was still time for a third Auckland City goal deep into injury time when the Boerchio’s clearance hit the back of one of his own players. The ball fell to Moreira who calmly slotted past Boerchio.
Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx insists his side deserved to win.
“It was a big test. I think we played a fantastic game to be honest. We dominated the game from start to finish but when they scored that goal the nerves have popped out, that’s normal,” Tribulietx says.
“In the second half we managed to assert our style, we readjusted a couple of things and that gave us a bit more depth in the way we were attacking.”
Despite a disappointing end to their campaign, Amicale boss Mauro Bertoni was gracious in defeat.
“I think the difference between the two teams to be honest is too big. It’s incredible to play against team with such a high level for a team like us.
“We tried to play our game the plan was clear to cover all the space, because if we give space to Auckland they will kill us. We tried and I’m disappointed with the 3-1 score line.”
In the day’s earlier match, the Solomon Warriors produced a thrilling 5-4 win over Papua New Guinea club Lae City Dwellers to finish third in Group A.
The start of the match was delayed due to wet conditions at Auckland’s QBE Stadium and when it finally got underway it was clear that both sides were gunning for victory.
Lae skipper Raymond Gunemba gave his side the lead after just three minutes when his intended cross bounced off Warriors’ keeper Anthony Talo to trickle over the goal line.
The sides were back on level terms four minutes later courtesy of Brian Kaltack’s spectacular drive from just outside the area.
The Dwellers restored their lead in the 34th minute after the unlucky Fred Fakari turned the ball into his own net following a miscued cross by Nigel Dabinyaba. But it was back to equal football when Lae City defender Valentine Nelson put an attempted clearance into his own net for the second own goal of the half.
The non-stop action continued after the break with the Warriors taking the lead through Jerry Donga who did well to force his way around the advancing goalkeeper Ronald Warisan before rolling into the empty net.
Solomon’s lead lasted just seven minutes as the dangerous Dabinyaba powered down the right flank to find the far corner with a low drive.
Michael Foster converted from the penalty spot after a handball inside the box by Warriors captain Haddis Aengari but the Warriors equalised straight away courtesy of a Molea Tigi strike that bounced in off the upright.
Lae City pushed forward desperately searching for their maiden Champions League victory but the Warriors held their nerve to grab the points with an 87th minute winner.
Jerry Donga was on target again for his second of the match after pouncing on a blocked shot from Kensi Tangis at the edge of the box.
Warriors coach Moses Toata heaped praise on his players following the entertaining encounter.
“Certainly, I am very happy for the boys and firstly I want to thank the boys for their effort today, for me they played very exciting football,” he said.
“The conditions were not easy today, especially in the beginning it was very wet, but the boys did well to settle down for a 5-4 win. It’s a good result for me.”
Meanwhile, his Lae City counterpart Peter Gunemba couldn’t hide his disappointment.
“We lost all three games and I accept the first two defeats but in this one I’m not happy with my players especially with my defenders at the back. They were poor and slow in their decision-making and in their counter-attack and that’s what cost us the game.
“Overall our first Champions League has been a great experience. We learned a lot and I love this tournament. If we get a chance to play in it next year we will give our very, very best.”
The focus now turns to the semi-finals of the 2016 OFC Champions League with Auckland City FC set to take on best runners-up AS Tefana at 12pm before Team Wellington face AS Magenta at 3.30pm at Auckland’s QBE Stadium.
Story courtesy of OFC. For more on OFC Champions League visit www.oceaniafootball.com