Words: ACFC Media
Friday 31 January 2020
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC's ISPS Handa Premiership pursuit undergoes a tricky challenge when they face resurgent Hamilton Wanderers at Kiwitea Street on Sunday.
The Navy Blues have a 100 percent winning record against the Waikato men, having won each of their previous seven competitive encounters, scoring 25 goals and conceding just three, making them red-hot favourites to make it eight-in-a-row.
But the league leaders will be wary of a Wanderers side that has experienced an upturn in fortunes after Kale Herbert took over the coaching reigns from his father, All Whites legend and FIFA World Cup hero in 1982 and 2010, Ricki Herbert.
The Porritt Stadium-based side won four matches straight to bounce from tenth in the league to as high as third in recent weeks, their run coming to an abrupt end at Madills Farm in a 3-0 trouncing by defending champions Eastern Suburbs AFC.
Head coach Jose Figueira has been impressed by Kale Herbert's influence on Wanderers.
AUDIO - Navy Blues ready for resurgent Wanderers
"You naturally get a galvanised feeling amongst players whever there is a new coach because everyone wants to prove themselves.
"Kale has worked hard and tinkered with a few things tactically after Ricki left and the results have shown with four wins from five - they mean business, and they're in the sniff for the playoffs and they'll show that this Sunday," he told www.aucklandcityfccom.
While Wanderers have yet to lay a glove on the Navy Blues in four seasons, Figueira believes the small dimensions of Kiwitea Street may play into the hands of the visitors - if his team aren't fully focused.
"Hamilton Wanderers will play to their strengths which is in a counter attack and speed on the break. Kiwitea Street is a tight pitch with small spaces so we have to be well-organised with the ball to deny them those opportunities.
"One dribble and one pass can be a dangerous attack and that's where Hamilton's key players thrive.
"We've done a lot of work on that this week. We've also worked on a bit of precision in the final third. Last week we were satsified with the first half performance up to the hour mark.
"But there's always the element of wanting to stamp our authority on the game and not allow teams to have a glimmer of hope.
"We want more ruthlessness in our final actions and continue our momentum and unbeaten run and push hard before we head off to Tahiti," he said.
Boosting Auckland City FC's hopes is a squad that has a clean bill of health. Only Yousif Al-Kalisy and Mario Ilich were a concern but both are expected to be available for selection.
"There's been an extra bit of edge about training because we've got 20 players trying to break into the 16-man squad. I'm in a really good position to put out a team to keep this momentum going," Figueira said.
The game is scheduled for Sunday 2 February, 2020, at Kiwitea Street and is the first of a run of three homes games with Auckland City FC set to face the Wellington Phoenix on Saturday 8 February and Canterbury United on Sunday 16 February.
Kick off for Sunday's game is at 2pm NZST.
ISPS Handa Premiership
Sunday 2 February 2020
Auckland City FC v Hamilton Wanderers
Kiwitea Street, Auckland
Kick-off: 2.00pm NZST
AC (from): 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 2. Mario ILICH, 3. Adam MITCHELL, 4. Mario BILEN, 5. Angel BERLANGA (c), 6. Brian KALTAK, 7. Cam HOWIESON, 8. Albert RIERA, 9. Myer BEVAN, 10. Dylan MANICKUM, 11. Tom DOYLE, 13. Emiliano TADE, 14. Jordan VALE, 16. Yousif AL-KALISY, 17. Andrew BLAKE, 18. Conor TRACEY (GK), 20. Logan ROGERSON, 21. Maro BONSU-MARO, 22. Clayton LEWIS, 23. Alfie ROGERS, 24. Cam BROWN (GK).
COACH: Jose FIGUEIRA.
Saturday 1 February, 2020
Wellington Phoenix v Team Wellington
Trusts Porirua, Wellington - kick-off: 2.00pm
Sunday 2 February, 2020
Eastern Suburbs AFC v Southern United
Madills Farm, Auckland - kick-off: 12.00pm
Tasman United v Hawke's Bay United
Saxton Field, Nelson - kick-off: 1.00pm
Canterbury United v Waitakere United
English Park, Christchurch - kick-off: 4.00pm
v Hamilton Wanderers (A) won 5-0 (Logan ROGERSON, Myer BEVAN 2, David BROWNE, Own Goal)
v Hamilton Wanderers (H) won 3-2 (David BROWNE, Maro BONSU-MARO, Cam HOWIESON)
v Hamilton Wanderers (A) won 1-0 (Maro BONSU-MARO)
v Hamilton Wanderers (A) won 1-0 (Micah LEA'ALAFA)
v Hamilton Wanderers (H) won 6-0 (Ryan DE VRIES 2, Callum McCOWATT, Emiliano TADE 2, Own Goal)
v Hamilton Wanderers (H) won 4-1 (Emiliano TADE, Clayton LEWIS 2, Fabrizio TAVANO)
v Hamilton Wanderers (A) won 5-0 (Joao MOREIRA 2, Emiliano TADE 2, Ryan DE VRIES)
v Western Springs, Sat 25 March 2023, Kiwitea Street, KO: 3pm NZST