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The third best club in the world

Auckland City 2, Waitakere United 2
Kiwitea Street, Auckland, December 21 2014

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Not many true football fans will admit that their favourite club is not the best, not even the second best, but merely the THIRD best team in the world. But that’s exactly what I’d bet dollars to doughnuts the Ultras of Auckland City FC will be proclaiming at full volume upon their return from the Club World Cup! And why not? Real Madrid, San Lorenzo, and then not Barcelona, not Juventus, not Manchester United or Bayern Munich or Boca Juniors, but Auckland City FC. It’s going to take a while for that to sink in. Especially for someone like me who was brought up from a young age to support two teams – Waikato and whoever is playing Auckland!

Those City boys from Sandringham, as the song goes, who play in a little suburban park that holds a couple of thousand spectators on a good day, beating the host club, beating the African champions, then totally outplaying the champions of South America over the space of 90 minutes before succumbing in extra time in the semi-final… Just wow. Then just yesterday morning beating the champions of CONCACAF on penalties in the playoff for third. Whatever your view is of the Club World Cup and its place in the hierarchy of things to care about, just those results on their own are extremely special for a team of amateurs wherever they are from in the world [Mark Reason!].

It was only fitting then, that my Sunday football excursion was to their home, Kiwitea Street, on the same day as their final famous victory in Morocco, to watch their youth team play in the final round of the ASB Youth League.

And the young whipper snappers seemed to draw inspiration from their older colleagues! In holding league leaders Waitakere United to a 2-2 draw they denied their local rivals the title that would have been theirs had they managed a victory. Instead, the Nelson Marlborough Falcons got to celebrate winning the league even though the trophy was on hand at Kiwitea Street, destined not to be raised aloft by anyone. Today at least.

Waitakere started strongest, dominating their opponents and spending the vast bulk of the first half probing the Auckland City final third. Despite that, it looked like it would be “the [cough] third best club in the world” [ahem] who would cheekily seize the early advantage when the ref pointed to the spot following what looked to me like a fairly accurate impersonation of Swan Lake from the defender in blue. Justice was served however when the keeper saved and the deadlock was maintained.

Then in the 28th minute it was Waitakere United’s turn to get an opportunity from the penalty spot, which they duly converted to grab a deserved advantage. But as they say in life – ‘glory is fleeting’, and this was taken to its extreme when only 7 minutes after that Waitakere breakthrough the Navy Blues found their equaliser through Thomas Konusi. Then in referee’s added time an improbable Auckland City lead was forged when Nicolas Zambrano struck to potentially break Waitakere hearts.

The result of that bombshell was the visitors needed two second half goals to win the league, but it never really looked like happening until five minutes from the end. City had their tails in the air and the wind in their sails while United by contrast looked like they’d had the stuffing knocked out of them. Sitting down the end Waitakere were supposedly attacking hoping to be able to photograph some wild celebrations or at least get a couple of action shots was a thoroughly fruitless exercise for 40 of the prescribed 45 minutes as all the action happened at the far end. However when action finally did happen down near where I was patiently camped out, boy did it really happen!

The game had already been displaying quite the derby feel to it with plenty of niggle to go around and this eventually culminated in Waitakere United going down to ten men when Jake Porter was given his marching orders, a reality that the visitors didn’t take too kindly to, to say the least! It might have been just what the doctor ordered though as their sense of injustice seemed to spur them into action and immediately afterwards they leveled the scores from the resulting free kick (don’t ask me why they were awarded a free kick at the same time as having a player sent off but there it is) and all of a sudden Waitak were back in it! This resulted in a frantic final five plus added time. Perhaps if the sending off had happened in the 55th instead of the 85th minute the end result might have been different! But as it was, despite the Westies throwing the kitchen sink at it, it was just simply too late.

Not a bad way to end the year though! Unless there is something on I don’t know about yet, that was my last live football game of 2014. If you don’t read anything else I spew forth between now and the New Year, thanks for tuning in and I’ll see you in 2015.

Categories: NZ Men's National Youth League

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

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