Words: ACFC Media
Friday 13 March 2020
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC and Eastern Suburbs AFC get set for a domestic Gridlock Derby clash as the spectre of Covid 19 hangs over their respective OFC Champions League hopes.
The New Zealand clubs have both qualified for home quarter-finals following successful tournaments in Papua New Guinea and Tahiti but face a nervous wait as Covid 19 wreaks havoc across the the world as sports events at all levels face either postponement or cancellation.
"It certainly wasn't the news we wanted to hear. We got the notification of the postponement when we landed late Monday night.
"Its a bit of a watching brief for us to see what happens. The greater good of the region is the most important thing so the postponement is a sensible option.
"We'll find out sooner rather than later around what the next steps will be and what the schedule will look like for the OFC Champions League," Figueira said.
The latest Gridlock Derby meeting in the ISPS Handa Premiership is therefore a welcome distraction for coach Jose Figueira who is close to guiding the Navy Blues to a seventh consecutive minor premiership title.
Top spot in the league gaurantees the winner a place in the 2020-21 OFC Champions League and stab at qualification for the revamped and expanded FIFA Club World Cup while runner-up also books a ticket into Oceania's top tier club contest should the minor premiers also win the grand final.
INTERVIEW - Charity Cup on the line in Gridlock Derby
The only way that situation can be upended is if a team other than the top two scoop the grand final in an upset, thus leaving second place in the league table irrelevant.
Making the chase for the minor premiership even more complicated is the presence of Team Wellington who have cut the Navy Blues lead at the top of the table to just three points with only three matches left to complete the regular season.
If Auckland City FC drop points and Team Wellington pick up a win on their travels to inconsistent Southern United, then the race for first place will be all on.
Complicating the picture is the current head-to-head record between the Navy Blues and the Lilywhites with the Kiwitea Street outfit boasting seven wins and a draw from their eight meetings in the top flight to date.
"Sunday is a big game as it always is against your cross-town rivals. Suburbs will be looking to cement their place in the playoffs and we want to maintain our lead at the top of the table.
"Its been a challenging week as Suburbs found when they got back from PNG. We know its not going to be an easy game and the hangover from travel from games in Tahiti but the players look sharp and are champing at the bit to play out these last few domestic league games and cement that number one place.
"The NZF Charity Cup is also up for grabs which adds an interesting dynamic to this match," he said.
Auckland City FC have no injury concerns ahead of Sunday's game with Tom Doyle returning to training and Cam Howieson back after serving a one game suspension.
If the match ends in a draw at the end of 90 minutes there will be a penalty shoot-out to determine the winner of the NZF Charity Cup.
ISPS Handa Premiership/NZF Charity Cup
Sunday 15 March 2020
Eastern Suburbs AFC v Auckland City FC
Madills Farm, Auckland
Kick-off: 4.00pm NZST
AC: 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. Cameron BROWN (GK).
COACH: Jose FIGUEIRA.
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (H) drew 0-0
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (H) won 3-2 (Micah LEA'ALAFA 2, Brian KALTAK)
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (A) won 1-0 (Dylan MANICKUM)
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (A) won 2-0 (Emiliano TADE, Micah LEA'ALAFA)
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (H) won 1-0 (Callum McCOWATT)
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (H) won 4-0 (Emiliano TADE 2, Callum McCOWATT, Dalton WILKINS) - ISPS Handa Premiership Semi-Finals
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (A) won 1-0 (Emiliano TADE)
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (H) won 2-1 (Joao MOREIRA, Emiliano TADE)
PREVIOUS NZF CHARITY CUP FINALS
2018 - Auckland City FC 4-3 Team Wellington
2017 - Team Wellington 3-1 Auckland City FC
2016 - Auckland City FC 3-1 Team Wellington
2015 - Auckland City FC 3-0 Team Wellington
2014 - Auckland City FC 2-2* Team Wellington
2013 - Auckland City FC 4-1 Waitakere United
2012 - Waitakere United 2-1 Auckland City FC
2011 - Auckland City FC 3-2 Waitakere United
*Team Wellington won 4-3 on penalties
NZF CHARITY CUP TITLES
Auckland City FC - 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018 (5)
Team Wellington - 2014, 2017 (2)
Waitakere United - 2012 (1)
Sunday 4 December 2022, Wellington Olympic, Mount Smart Stadium