The last game of the regular Stirling Sports Premiership season for both Auckland City and Eastern Suburbs had a lot riding on it. For the Kiwitea St hosts, the minor premiership and a crucial 2018 OFC Champions League spot. Suburbs needed a result to secure their place in the playoffs and avoid relying on Hawkes Bay United slipping up in their remaining game.
The developing rivalry between City and Suburbs is a welcome addition to the summer league. While last weeks game demonstrated the fury and spite that boils over when the Sandringham boys take on those pesky Westies, both fixtures of the Gridlock Derby have been tight, closely contested affairs.
Both goalkeepers had to be alert in the first half. Croatian Silvio Rodic making some excellent stops in the first half and Enaut Zubikarai coming finger-tip onto the bar distance to conceding two long range floaty ones in two weeks, after misjudging a ball. Both sides pressed and defended in numbers, matching their opponents and creating an absorbing stalemate.
Across the two fixtures between the sides this season there were just four goals in total, but the first of them from open play came 88 minutes into the regular season closer – as Moses Dyer slipped home a rebound after good work from Derek Tieku and Finn Cochran.
The Navy Blues had already taken the lead through a Joao Moreira penalty, twenty minutes into the second half. Unlike the away fixture, there was little doubt and no mysterious retakes as he lifted the ball down the middle and over a despairing Silvio Rodic.
Dyer’s equaliser would deny City the minor premiership and the OFC spot, while also boosting Suburbs chances of reaching the playoffs in their first season – no mean achievement.
It wasn’t to be. Clayton Lewis, a live-wire presence in midfield and down the left all afternoon, latched onto a long pass and slid the ball across to Emiliano Tade. Rodic got a touch on it, but couldn’t keep it out.
There was a lot of late on drama in the game, stemming from Suburbs belief that the referee was giving a lot of soft-contact fouls against them. Midfield pairing Tim Payne and Moses Dyer were the most vocal of the Lilywhites, with Moses lucky to escape a second yellow after the experienced Mario Bilen spent a little time winding him up at the centre-spot as his team-mates celebrated in the corner.
2 – 1, and the minor premiership title was heading back to Kiwitea Street.
For Auckland City, the OFC Champions League beckons at their home-away of Mangere’s Centre Park. For Eastern Suburbs the wait to see if they will play another game this 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.