Two games in four days? This is the life, my friends, an endless non-stop football jamboree! And once again to North Harbour Stadium which, for our Round 5 game last Sunday was Waitakere United’s home ground and last night, our Round 1 game, has become our home ground and Hawkes Bay United’s away ground. Got that? Glad someone has.
The North Harbour Stadium is set up for all the bells and whistles of live broadcasting, which makes it an ideal place to televise the first few games. Sundays game is at Gower Park, and we’ll be down Kiwitea St to watch it in the bar. Nice. It was pleasing to see the cameras moved down to pitch level, Sunday had seen them at the top of the stands giving a lazy-bird-who-can’t-be-arsed-to-fly-eye view of the game.
Settling into Block 5 I noted the sprinklers were on. Funny, I didn’t know you could water paint to make it grow! Not that it mattered that much anyway, the storm clouds rolling in on the drive up made it clear it was going to chuck it down at some point. On the concourse, non-playing members of the City squad were offering free samples of the new shirt sponsers wares. Have to say, a sponsor you can eat is much better than one you can’t. Let’s go for that Carls Jnr deal next season, Mr Vuksich!
The 248 were compact, but heartened by the opening of one of the proper food stalls on the concourse, a short hop over the back row of seats away. The lager was cold, the chips were hot and the music over the PA was definitely of a song inspiring variety.
And so to the game. Two of the City boys, Hudson-Wihongi and Lewis, who started on Sunday were away with the All Whites, both getting game time in the win overnight. Angel Berlanga and Dae Wook Kim were out with an injuries, so Michael De Heijer and Darren White replaced them. Sammy Burfoot (ole ole ooooo) came into midfield in place of Hudson-Wihongi.
One word for Hawkes Bay? Organised. Much more so than the Waitakere team on Sunday. They were set up in a 4 – 1 – 4 – 1 from the off, determined to deny City space and time. It’s a typical away tactic because it’s effective. But it requires a lot of commitment and a high level of fitness, and HBU met that requirement.
The goal arrived from the right hand side. Mikel Alvaro, relatively unheralded after his arrival at the end of last season, has been quietly impressing himself on games from midfield. With the ball at the feet of TV camera (and gif) magnet Micah Lea’lafa, Alvaro played a quick one two with the Solomon Islander and put him through on goal, albeit at a seriously acute angle with a defender threatening. He can’t score from ther….JESUS CHRIST YES HE CAN! I wouldn’t use the world unstoppable, but it was certainly improbable. But it was in, Lea’alafa raised two fingers to the heavens and the 248 tried out their new Gary Numan inspired chant for the goalscorer.
The weather was foul all game and we couldn’t work out if the pitch looked better than Sunday because it was better, or whether it looked better because it was night time. HBU soaked up more pressure than the ground was able to in the remainder of the half, with a few niggly fouls on Lea’alafa indicating there’s at least one way you can stop him.
Half time – 1 – 0 to the City.
At half time, a newcomer to Block 5 came up the steps, “Not exactly worrying us, are they? Totally in control. Still, dangerous scoreline, 1 – 0 at half time”. And he’s right; 1 – 0 is a dangerous scoreline, but then again, so’s 2 – 1, 2 – 0 and being down by 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5. But given the fifteen minute goalstorm of Sunday’s game, we didn’t look like we were going to score – but looked like we expected to.
In the second half, the rain continued, as did the singing. We also realised the media desk to our right was showing the Sky feed, which was a few seconds behind. BONUS INSTANT REPLAY, which actually quietened a few of our ‘HE WAS NEVER OFFSI….oh, no actually he was fair enough’ moments.
I was impressed with the Hawkes Bay midfield, who were mobile and up for it. Zane Sole was a right pain in the arse at times, which is as good a praise as this biased match report can offer an opposition player. Auckland kept pouring forwards and the defence was a little scramble and shove for a while there, but the scoreline remained the same. Kohei Matsumoto engaged in a good running battle with Ryan De Vries which was tough, but based on ability rather than brutality.
Then it happened. Auckland super keeper and internet gif sensation Jacob Spoonley came out for a ball way outside the area. From our view in the stadium the ball bobbled out of his reach, from his tweet afterwards he slipped over. Anyway, the best way to describe it was ‘ARRRARRGGH’ as Matsumoto came out of the thundercludge with the ball and dinked it into the net from way out. There were five minutes left.
I’d say the goal pumped HBU up, but they’d been working their way into the game for at least ten minutes before hand – working moves and gaining territory. It was up to City to get that winner, and on another day we would have. Except for bloody Josh Hill.
I’m not saying the other teams have clocked that ACFC have a potent attack force, but Waitakere signing Manuel Neuer and Hawkes Bay signing David De Gea is just not fair. Especially when they’re playing under assumed names. Surely that’s ineligible? We should ask NZF….maybe.
It’s a shame that Simon Williams’ efforts on Sunday didn’t make the highlights reel. It’ll be an absolute bloody travesty if Josh Hill’s don’t. Seeking the winner, Auckland threw the bucket, the spade, the sandcastle they’d built on that patch down by the corner flag and the kitchen sink at HBU. The best save was a point blank header from Lea’alafa (Christ, he can HEAD the ball too?) in stoppage time, which drew applause from the 248 because we couldn’t work out how he’d done it.
Full time. One all. Fair enough.
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.