The Biased Match Report series: As an Auckland City supporter, I’m not going to pretend to be unbiased in my ASB Premiership match reports this season. I’ll try and be reasonably fair on the opposition, but come on – I’m not Mother Teresa. Or am I?
“Happy new season” and handshakes all round in the shed at Kiwitea as kickoff approached. Earlier Sky Sports cameras were in the ground to interview club legends and stalwarts, preparing for the future Monday night ASB Premiership show. Grant Young and Young Jnr kicked a ball around out on the pitch, the youngster showing that talent is hereditary.
It was a day of remembrance of a Kiwitea St great, falling on what would have been Keryn Jordan’s 40th birthday. A minute’s silence and a 14th minute chant marked the respect the club and its supporters hold for the Auckland City legend.
The pathway for the ASB Premiership has been decided upon, and some of the chat in the clubrooms was about whether or not we’d see a Nelson team join the league as well as pondering just where that 10th side would come from. Manawatu, bouncing back? Auckland United, giving the teams south of Portage Road their own club? We’ll find out later on this month.
For City, the changes were obvious in the lineup. In the off-season; John Irving, Tamati Williams, David Browne, Ivan Carril, Oscar Garcia departed and in their place a mix of ex-Wanderers S.C players and more experienced ASB heads. In midfield the impressively named Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi and the futsal talent of Micah Lea’alafa started, while the returning Emiliano Tade played a fascinating deep lying role, feeding Ryan De Vries and Joao Moreira up front.
Team Wellington’s lineup included Napier City Rovers player/manager Bill Robertson, whose voice has officially been recorded by GeoNet during the more enthusiastic outbursts. No place though for Tom Jackson, the former Southern Man who joined them over the summer.
It was a perfect day for football. It was an even perfecter day for a few pints on a Sunday. Tom, the groundsman, has got the Kiwitea pitch looking gorgeous and his incursions onto it during the game, to replace some divots, were stealthy. Some discussion in the shed focused on potentially having to change the ACFC flag the 248 hang at the back of the stand, the flag referendum claiming another victim.
The game itself was competitive but in terms of chances made, Auckland dominated. The first goal came from the midfield and that man, Hudson-Wihongi using his strength to thunder forward before arrowing the ball across the keeper and into the net. Not a bad start for the new boy.
It was a day for the debutants as the fizzing talent of Micah Lea’alafa began to influence the game. His neat footwork around the edge of the box gave the ball to Tade at an acute angle. No angle too sharp for the Argentinian, and his fierce shot was parried to the onrushing Lea’alafa who had followed up his initial pass.
Half time and a quick dash to the bar for another bottle of singing enhancing amber nectar. While I was up there, someone asked me where I got my City shirt from. Playmaker Sports, down in Newmarket, if you were wondering.
An even quicker dash back to the shed for the second half, bloody licensing laws, past both NZ Masterchef winner and former Auckland City physio Tim Read as well as All Whites coach, Anthony Hudson. Who says NZ football can’t draw a celebrity crowd?
The second half saw Takuya Iwata continue to hold his title of ‘probably the most fouled Auckland City player ever’ as he was sent tumbling more than a few times as he attempted to speed down the wing.
Wellington threatened, but couldn’t quite get into gear against a an Auckland side who looked like their season had started a few games ago. These Charity Cup games are often seen as an extra pre-season, and the amount of substitutions made during the game bore this out. Both sides have qualified for next season’s Auckland/Wellington hosted OFC Champions League which gives each side up to FIVE extra games! Hurray.
Ryan De Vries scored a superb goal late on, but it was ruled out for Joao Moreira apparently interfering with play. A video on someone’s phone in the clubhouses made that decision look a little questionable, and it was agreed that the goal was ruled out for simply being a bit too good. I hope Hudson was watching.
It was three in the end though and a double for Micah Lea’alafa who, again following up into the box, smashed home. At this point the 248 started singing of their imminent victory, which backfired in the same fixtures last season when Team Wellington equalised and went onto win on penalties. No such luck for them this season though, and Angel Berlanga lifted the first bit of tin of the season
Categories: NZ Men's National League
John Palethorpe lives in South Auckland which is very far away from Fratton Park and Champion Hill. Having been told there was no football in New Zealand, he was delighted to find that there is.