As was pointed out during the second half, Central United got gubbed 7 – 1 by Western Springs in pre-season this year – by the end of the season Central had the title and Springs had a (return?) ticket to Division One.
Even with Clayton Lewis and Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi off with the All Whites and Micah Lea’alafa taking post Futsal World Cup recovery time, I’m not saying being beaten 3 – 0 by Eastern Suburbs didn’t worry me.
Let’s start with the positives. Albert’s back! Watching him intercept and then ping the ball about from his deep lying role, well, you’ve got to be pleased that the Rieralucion continues at Kiwitea this season.
Right, now onto the less positive. Mario Bilen going down and off injured after ten minutes on the clock isn’t a good sign. Last season, he and Hudson-Wihongi drove us forward and while Albert is a welcome addition, our midfield hasn’t really looked the same since Tim Payne left (Tim lined up for Suburbs last night – Sam Burfoot warmed up but didn’t play).
Our best chances came from Angel Berlanga galloping down the wing from right back, and Takuya doing the same on the left. The only problem is the space left in behind was exploited for the first two Suburbs goals. Sean Lovemore burst through and cut it back for Armin Pasagic to fire past Enaut Zubikarai. The second goal saw Lovemore get in behind Berlanga, arrow into the box from the left wing and steamroller straight through Harry Edge (…as in Edge ended up on the deck) before scoring. Bugger.
On the City side, Berlanga’s crosses were closed down or deal with by Zac Speedy. Ryan De Vries dropped off and to the left, while Joao Moreira ended up deeper and deeper trying to get hold of the ball. At one point Berlanga crossed into the box and Moreira was in the centre circle. Eep.
Half Time – Suburbs 2 – 0 City
Time for a change, in addition to the ones that were already made due to injury. On came Marko Dordevic and Emiliano Tade to shore up the defence and sharpen the attack. Tade seemed particularly fired up, with some of his connecting close play drawing ooh’s from the crowd. Couldn’t actually score though.
One thing to note about this Suburbs team is how City they looked. Playing a high defensive line, compressing play in the midfield and competing like buggery for the ball for the full 90 minutes. Their game against Central at the end of the NRFL Prem season saw them take a direct approach, using Pasagic as a target man. Against City they kept it on the floor and worked the ball around.
Derek Tieku, in particular, was a menace down the right hand side. He pushed Takuya Iwata to the limit in the first half, and he’s going to give every left-back in the division problems if he can maintain that level. It was an in possession spin from Tieku which saw Iwata hit the turf and depart the pitch injured. Bugger.
Then a period of dogged pressing from the Lilywhites, literally four players maurauding on the edge of our box as Dordevic, Edge, Berlanga and Drake tried to get the ball clear, saw a penalty awarded as a Suburbs player burst into the box. Pasagic put the penalty past Drake.
Bugger. Suburbs get a pen and score. pic.twitter.com/okNCNOGRl5
— The 248 Service (@the248service) October 5, 2016
Full Time: Suburbs 3 – 0 City
It’s not that City didn’t try to score. But they got beaten by a team playing a very City style of football – high energy, possession based and not afraid to get into a heavy challenge or two. After Team Wellington beat City in the final last season by picking up on our percieved weakness at the set piece, maybe this season will see a few more teams attempt to take City on at their own game.
It’s only pre-season. But that means the season is NEARLY HERE.
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.