Words: ACFC Media
Sunday 9 February 2020
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC were made to work hard by the Wellington Phoenix after the Navy Blues downed Paul Temple's team 3-2 at Kiwitea Street today.
Goals for Clayton Lewis, Emiliano Tade and Mario Ilich cancelled out a goal-of-the-season contender from Ben Waine and a late own goal by skipper Angel Berlanga.
The Navy Blues started the stronger of the two sides and threatened to run amok as the Wee Nix stood frozen in a set of headlights.
Ilich stung Oliver Sail's hands early on before Myer Bevan drew another save from the Phoenix goalkeeper after a brilliant diagonal switch pass from Adam Mitchell found Emiliano Tade free on the left.
There was an anxious moment for the visitors when Jordan Vale sped past Sail then lofted an inviting cross for Bevan who narrowly missed giving the Navy Blues the lead.
It didn't take long for the first goal to arrive when Sail saved from Tade in a one on one but could only parry the ball straight into the path of Clayton Lewis who swept home into an unguarded net.
Tade then saw a volley flash just wide of the post, then Lewis sent in a rasping shot from long range that also went close to doubling the advantage.
It took a goalkeeping gaffe by Sail for Auckland City FC's lead to be extended, the Phoenix custodian botching up a clearance that allowed Ilich to lash home from just outside the box.
The visitors made a double substitution at half time with Riley Bidois and Ben Old thrown in for Ahmed Othman and Stephen Sprowson and the effect was almost instant when Brian Kaltak was caught dithering on the ball allowing Byron Heath to break clear and shoot only for Enaut Zubikarai to deflect it wide.
Auckland City FC's next best chance came when Tade smashed a powerful shot that was pushed clear into the path of Vale who sent his shot out of Kiwitea Street.
Howieson then found Lewis who whipped in a brilliant first time cross only for Tade to plant his effort centimetres wide of the target when it looked easier to score.
The game was thrown into doubt when Ben Waine unleashed a brilliant goal with a right foot shot from 30 metres that ripped into Zubikarai's net on 68 minutes to half the deficit.
Tade restored the two goal buffer a minute later when he scored with a delightful move that he started culminating in a right foot shot in that Sail had no chance of stopping.
The Phoenix then struck back when skipper Angel Berlanga turned the ball into his own net with less than 15 minutes left to play.
Auckland City FC's grip on the game looked tenuous and when substitute Riley Bidois nodded wide from just a couple of yards out Navy Blues supporters would've had their hearts in their mouths.
That feeling deepened when Zubikarai came for a Phoenix free-kick and missed it with Sail thrown forward in desperate search of an equaliser.
But the Navy Blues held on to yet another victory to maintain their six point lead over Team Wellington at the top of the table and stay unbeaten.
Coach Jose Figueira was pleased with the win but acknowledged his side had to see off an opponent who made the final knockings of the match more than a little difficult.
"It's been a little bit of a trend at home in recent weeks but I was really delighted, first and foremost, with the three points.
"There was some progression there in our organisation with the ball, controlling the game better, we created a lot of good chances in the first 55-60 minutes and thats always pleasing as it maintains that control.
"The team is working extremely hard and it's about maintaining a little bit of composure and connectedness on the pitch.
"Their two goals were difficult to do much about - an own goal and the other an absolute screamer. Outside of the little scare at the end we've kept them at bay and really controlled the game," he said.
Auckland City FC are next in action on Sunday 16 February, 2020, when they host bottom of the table Canterbury United at Kiwitea Street.
The match kicks off at 2.00pm NZST.
ISPS Handa Premiership
Sunday 9 February, 2020
Auckland City FC 3 (Clayton LEWIS 19', Mario ILICH 34', Emiliano TADE 69')
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Ben WAINE 68', Own Goal 76')
AC: 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 2. Mario ILICH (20. Logan ROGERSON 72'), 3. Adam MITCHELL, 5. Angel BERLANGA (c), 6. Brian KALTAK, 7. Cam HOWIESON, 9. Myer BEVAN, 13. Emiliano TADE (10. Dylan MANICKUM
76'), 14. Jordan VALE, 22. Clayton LEWIS (16. Yousif AL-KALISY 89'), 23. Alfie ROGERS.
SUBS NOT USED: 24. Cam BROWN (GK), 4. Mario BILEN.
COACH: Jose FIGUEIRA.
Saturday 8 February, 2020
Waitakere United 1-0 Eastern Suburbs AFC
Sunday 9 February, 2020
Hamilton Wanderers 1-1 Southern United
Hawke's Bay United 2-1 Canterbury United
Team Wellington 3-1 Tasman United
Mon 2 March, 2020, KO: 4.00pm, Tahiti