Around 2pm the nerves kicked in. What if this was how it was going to be now? Losing to Waitakere for the first time in nearly three years was a shock, and the fact we were facing the side who beat us to the championship last season didn’t help.
Team Wellington have made some good signings in the off-season, particularly seeing as their first title was the final bow at National League level for the likes of Chris Bale and Luis Corrales. Matt Calcott’s replacement, the NRFL Prem winning Jose Figueira, means that the team would play a style of football not too far away from that we’ve been used to at Kiwitea Street for the last few years.
A welcome return for Mario Bilen in midfield and Angel Berlanga at centre back eased concerns, as did three swift and crisp pints at the new pub in Sandringham, the Lord Kitchener.
For thirty minutes City seemed to be in a similar mood as last week, dominating possession but not being able to find a way through Team Wellington. The added dynamism of Bilen in midfield gave us a bit of an edge, but it still looked pretty blunt at times.
Then it finally happened. We scored our first goal of the season. Zubikarai’s goal-kick was flicked onto De Vries, who scooted down the left and produced a peach of a cross for Emiliano Tade. A newcomer to Kiwitea, hailing from Brazil, nodded in satisfaction.
If there is a more frustratingly brilliant player than Joao Moreira at Kiwitea Street, I’ve yet to see him. Languid to the point of slow-motion and a target of groans from the stand, regulars down at City had to reassure themselves and others that the Portuguese Berbatov would score. Eventually.
So he did. His goal, Auckland’s second, was individual brilliance, playing himself through the defence with a rainbow flick that he finished on the volley. Bloody hell Joao. Bloody hell.
Half Time – Auckland City 2 – 0 Team Wellington
Two nil isn’t the end of the game though, not when you’re playing against a side with the talent that Team Wellington have. But if anything, they looked like we did last week – intent on playing the ball on the deck, shifting it about and pressing – but not taking the chance to just have a bloody dig in favour of a fatal pass too many.
Joao was in the mix again for our third goal, sending De Vries clear with a frankly obscene through ball. Basalaj found himself one on one with the National League’s most dangerous goalscorer and despite his best efforts he ended up picking the ball out of the net.
A side note here for Alfie Rogers, whose performances at left back for the first two games of the season have been hugely impressive. He’s not quite got the telepathy that Takuya demonstrates, but he gets up and down that wing like he’s on a rail and has the skills to get past the more lumbering challenges that go in on him.
Goal number four was a Moreira penalty after Andy ‘Same creativity as Raheem Sterling’ Bevin felled De Vries in the box.
Team Wellington looked like they’d played a game less in sharpness, but there’s little doubt that the defending champions will soon hit top gear – like Auckland did today. At some point someone’s going to get a hiding off them. I wouldn’t like to be playing them next week.
Full Time Auckland City 4 – 0 Team Wellington
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.