Words: ACFC Media
Sunday 1 December 2019
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC staved off a late charge from Tasman United to open up a four point gap at the top of the ISPS Handa Premiership in a 2-1 win at Kiwitea Street today.
The day began with eyes focused firmly on Angel Berlanga becoming the most capped player in the history of Auckland City FC and he was presented with a bottle of champagne by former record holder and team-mate James Pritchett.
Pritchett, a former All White, was on hand to witness Berlanga's big day alongside other former Navy Blues including former coach Allan Jones, Liam Mulrooney, Jacob Spoonley, Greg Uhlmann, Chad Coombes and Sam Campbell.
Ahead courtesy of a goal in each half by Cam Howieson and a classy penalty from Myer Bevan, the Navy Blues were forced to endure a frantic finish after Jama Boss halved the deficit with a superbly taken goal late on.
AUDIO - "We created a lot of chances" - Jose Figueira
But the home side could've been out of sight after a long range strike by Andrew Blake smacked the face of the crossbar with Tasman United's post also getting hit in the second half.
The visitors adopted a low defensive block and relied on breaking quickly to trouble Auckland City FC but it wasn't until they were two goals adrift that they played some of their most enterprising football.
Cory Vickers led a combative Tasman United midfield and Jama Boss carried a constant threat even without the presence of New Caledonian international Jean Phillipe Saiko.
While Auckland City FC toiled to break Tasman United's lines when they did they looked excellent when Jordan Vale raced clear to tee up Howieson for a power header at the near post just before the break.
GOAL!!! - Cam Howieson scores the opener
When Vickers bundled Browne over just after the restart Bevan netted his eighth goal of the campaign with a penalty kick of supreme class that left Pierce Clarke totally beaten.
A torrential downpour midway through the second half changed the nature of the pitch with players slipping on a hard surface as miscalculated passes caused disruption across the pitch.
Tasman United used this to their advantage when Vickers supplied Boss with a beautiful pass that allowed the Yemeni-born forward to lash a brilliant shot past Conor Tracey to set up a thrilling finish to a game that started as more of a tactical joust.
Auckland City FC continued to create chances of their own with Clarke pulling off good saves from Manickum, Howieson and Browne but it wasn't enough to prevent Jose Figueira's team staying top of the ISPS Handa Premiership for another week.
The victory means Auckland City FC haven't lost a regular season match at home since they were beaten by Waitakere United 1-0 in October 2016 - just over three years ago. They haven't lost a regular season match of any type since Team Wellington beat them 3-1 at the start of the 2017-18 season, a two year run.
Figueira suggested there were more goals in his team until the final third but expressed satisfaction with the overall quality of his side's work.
"We got a bit of a late scare when they scored and I think we played about 96 minutes all up and it was 90 minutes of very good football creating multiple chances and with almost total domination.
"The opposition had one clear cut chance in the game and they took it. There were a few little nerves when the goal went in but otherwise we were very very good for 90 of the 96 minutes.
"With the amount of chances we created we need more clarity in our decision making with our final shot or final pass. We could've scored a couple more goals but other than that we need to keep building on what we're doing in what will be another tough match for us next week" he said.
Special praise was reserved for Berlanga who had a solid match.
"It's nice to get a win on a special day for Angel Berlanga. There won't be too many players who will catch Angel's 204 game record - he's looking and feeling great within himself and I'm sure there are many many more appearances to come," he said.
Elsewhere, Southern United knocked Waitakere United over 5-2 at Seddon Field on Saturday, while Hawke's Bay United held Eastern Suburbs AFC to a 3-3 draw in Napier.
Hamilton Wanderers are stuck at the bottom of the league after they were well beaten in a 4-2 defeat to the Wellington Phoenix. Team Wellington returned to winning form with a hard fought 2-1 win over Canterbury United.
Auckland City FC's next match is away to Canterbury United at English Park, Christchurch, on Sunday 8 December, 2019.
The match kicks off at 2pm NZST.
ISPS Handa Premiership
Sunday 1 December 2019
Auckland City FC 2 (Cam HOWIESON 38', Myer BEVAN 48'-pen)
Tasman United 1 (Jama BOSS 75')
AC: 18. Conor TRACEY (GK), 2. Mario ILICH (16. Yousif ALI 67'), 3. Adam MITCHELL, 5. Angel BERLANGA (c), 6. Brian KALTAK, 7. Cam HOWIESON, 9. Myer BEVAN, 10. Dylan MANICKUM, 14. Jordan VALE, 17. Andrew BLAKE, 19. David BROWNE (22. Clayton LEWIS 84').
SUBS NOT USED: 24. Cameron BROWN (GK), 4. Mario BILEN, 11. Keegan LINDERBOOM.
COACH: Jose FIGUEIRA.