Everything to play for. The overturning of Amicale’s result meant that if somebody lost this game, they’d be going out. Tefana’s whopping +10 goal difference meant that six points wouldn’t be enough for second best, although there was some discussion over the benefits of playing for a draw, which would see both teams go through and face each other again in the semi-final.
Instead of a Disgrace of Gijon or ITBOTN’s founder Enzo’s favourite Sweden v Denmark game, we were treated to a tense and tactical display from both sides.
There was an Italian spine to the Amicale side this year, from Mauro Boerchio in goal, Francisco Perrone in defence and Giorgio Bertacchi in midfield. And it was clear they’d done their homework on Auckland City, working hard on the wings to close down the attacking intent of Darren White and Takuya Iwata.
White persevered though, creating the first chance of the game with a low cross which Perrone did well to nick away from the onrushing Joao Moreira.
But Amicale took the lead. Both Angel Berlanga and Takuya Iwata went for the same ball and failed to get anything on it. The resulting cross was chested down by former City striker Adam Dickinson who turned back, as Dae Wook Kim stepped away and drilled a shot past Diego Rivas.
City continued to play their calculated passing game and the creative spark was White, putting a free kick onto Moreira’s forehead – the resulting header palmed away by the impressive Boerchio.
In a tournament not known for the quality of it’s defending and goalkeeping, I’d been impressed by Boerchio. He’s a giant of a player, well over six feet and had made some vital reaction saves in the previous game I’d seen him play in.
Half Time – Auckland City 0 – 1 Amicale
[Going to take a break from the reporting now. In the Block, we were bloody worried. We sort of looked like scoring, but only because White was playing right back, right midfield, right wing and centre forward all at once. On the current score, we were going out – we needed a draw. There was talk about whether we were raising our game enough, often we’d seemed to be slowly knocking the ball about. Our midfield seemed to be bypassed entirely in favour of playing down the wings. Our solution? Get Ryan on, he always adds pace in attack. Play Clayton Lewis in centre left midfield, rather than on the right of midfield – easy!]
We got our wish. De Vries came on with just over half an hour to go and instantly we looked more dangerous in attack. Boerchio palmed away a Clayton Lewis shot and then claimed a corner superbly. The pressure was slowly ratcheting up.
71 minutes. Takuya swings a cross in from deep. It finds Darren White. Then it happened.
White watches the ball coming in, looping over the defenders. He controls with his right foot, knocks the ball across his body. A single touch with the left foot. He shapes, shoots and the ball travels in a near perfect straight line – rippling the net. We go mental. We’re level. White grabs the ball and runs back to the penalty spot.
As it stood, both teams were going through and were set for a rematch. Amicale try and pour forward, abandoning their pressing game and their Pacific catenaccio which had worked for most of the game.
Five minutes of added time. Both teams going through. Clayton Lewis surges down the left and demonstrates the deftness of his left foot with a cross into the box. Amicale’s Galvao, a rock so far in the competition, attempts to control the ball but it skids away. There’s De Vries with time, but not too much time, to curl the ball home. There’s a shade over 90 minutes on the clock. Amicale are going home.
Then, heartbreak for Boerchio. He’d kept the Vanuatu side in the game, but in his desperation to find an equaliser he commits a newsworthy error. His kick ricochets off his own defender, Galvao again, and drops in the area. Joao Moreira was lurking and couldn’t miss. Three one, Amicale were both down and out.
Full Time: Auckland City 3 – 1 Amicale
Categories: OFC Champions 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.