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At the end the Aucklanders win

Auckland City 3, Eastern Suburbs 2
Kiwitea Street, Auckland, January 26 2019

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Yeah, so obviously I’ve been a bit slack in January. Whereas my first game of 2018 kicked off at 12:01am on January 1, this year I have kept my wonderful adoring fan(s) (hi mum) waiting a whopping 26 days beyond that. I do apologise, but I have been a bit preoccupied with other summer activities like lazing around, sleeping, watching tennis, sleeping, cafe hopping, sleeping, lazing around, sleeping and a bit of work around the house. Exhausting stuff. Just writing that was such hard work that I feel like another nap.

It all comes crashing down on Tuesday though, when I have to go back to my… you know… j-o-b… for the first time since the week before Christmas. The less said about that the better, but in order to work my way up to such a traumatic ordeal, I thought it might be a good idea to go to a men’s national league game, my first since April last year, to see if it might provide enough excitement to wake me up from my five week long slumber.

And did it? Well, yes. Just barely.

It was always going to be hard to resist this top of the table clash, which has been dubbed ‘the gridlock derby’. Despite its significance as a clash between this season’s top two sides it’s still a young rivalry and doesn’t seem to have the same depth of feeling as Auckland City v Waitakere United at this stage. There was a good crowd in at Kiwitea Street but they weren’t hanging from the rafters and the atmosphere was a little flat for a derby.

The first half gave no indication that this would end up being a closely fought contest. Auckland City were dominant and should really have been 3 or 4 up at the break rather than the 2 that they had to settle for. Their second was the pick of the goals though, a stunning free kick curled inside the far post by Brian Kaltack after Micah Lea’alafa had given them the early lead, poking home 1v1 with Suburbs keeper Andrew Withers.

Lea’alafa had his second just two minutes into the second half and at that point it seemed like game over, but Suburbs still had a few tricks up their sleeves. They came storming back into the match after the hour mark via goals to Callum McCowatt and Dominic Wooldridge to set us up for a grandstand finish. The home side’s defence held strong against the inevitable pressure that followed however, and when the final whistle blew all three points belonged to them.

So the theme of the New Zealand men’s national league continues to hold true – the more things change the more they stay the same. Auckland City have all but secured a home semi final and it’s hard to imagine them not winning the minor premiership from here. As they’ve found out a few times before though, anything can happen in knockout football. They have to make sure they are peaking at the right time because second half jitters like today’s will be more likely to be decisively capitalised on at the business end.

All in all it was a good first outing of the year for me. There were some nice football moments and the last ten minutes were tense and exciting.

Ultimately though, I’m reminded of that famous quote from Gary Lineker – “football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end the Germans win.” Substitute the Germans for the Aucklanders and you’ve just about perfectly summed up the New Zealand men’s national league.

Categories: NZ Men's National League

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

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