Words: ACFC Media
Sunday 7 February 2021
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC open up a six point gap at the top of the ISPS Handa Premiership and retain the NZF Charity Cup after beating Team Wellington 3-1 in an afternoon of thrills at Kiwitea Street.
The pre-match talk centred around whether intrinsic value existed in contesting the NZF Charity Cup but the football community responded by turning out in good numbers and were rewarded with a match that lived up to previous encounters between the clubs.
The first half was a tense affair with neither side conceding space and opportunities proved limited with Hamish Watson crashing a superb freekick off the face of the Auckland City FC crossbar the best chance of the half.
Logan Rogerson squandered a good chance to give the home side the lead when he was sent clear and Yousif Al-Kalisy saw a deflected long range shot deftly turned by the post by Team Wellington goalkeeper and skipper Scott Basalaj.
Auckland City FC dominated proceedings in terms of chances created in the first half but Team Wellington gave as good as they got with Wan Gatkek turning in an eyecatching performance in midfield.
The Navy Blues look to have reached a new level of performance and crucial to that has been the form of Mohamed Awad. It was Awad, in tandem with Dylan Manickum, who opened the scoring five minutes after halftime with the former Eastern Suburbs and Melbourne Knights attacker threading an inventive pass into the Futsal Player of the Year who supplied an expert finish.
Manickum's 17th goal for Auckland City FC set up a tense period for the visitors who started to struggle with the pace and eventually saw Ben mata cut down Rogerson for a stonewall penalty.
Skipper Cam Howieson swept home his 12th goal for the club in his 94th appearance and with the advantage doubled it appeared both the Charity Cup and the three points were secured.
Within two minutes Rogerson had added a third, his pace and finishing proving problematic for a hard working Team Wellington defence.
Team Wellington had pulled back dire positions this season on four other occasions but even this looked beyond them until Andy Bevin won a brilliant tackle in midfield to set up Watson who then scored a sublime goal from just inside the Navy Blues half.
Cam Brown was beaten by a full 50 or 60 yards and it was the perfect catalyst for the visitors to attempt a comeback. To the home side's credit their game management proved the difference and with it came the reward of a trophy and three vital points that look likely to secure the last ever ISPS Handa Premiership league title.
Next week's match sees Auckland City FC host playoff chasing Canterbury United at Kiwitea Street with the match kicking off at 2pm NZDT.
Elsewhere in the ISPS Handa Premiership, Waitakere United walloped Eastern Suburbs AFC 4-0 in a major upset, Canterbury United downed Hawke's Bay United 2-1 in Christchurch and Hamilton Wanderers edged out a vastly improved Wellington Phoenix 2-1 at Fraser Park in Lower Hutt.
ISPS Handa Premiership/NZF Charity Cup
Sunday 7 February, 2021
Auckland City FC 3 (Dylan MANICKUM 50', Cam HOWIESON 70'-pen, Logan ROGERSON 72')
Team Wellington 1 (Hamish WATSON 75')
AC: 24. Cam BROWN (GK), 2. Mario ILICH, 3. Adam MITCHELL, 6. Brian KALTAK, 7. Cam HOWIESON (c) (8. Albert RIERA 82'), 10. Dylan MANICKUM (9. Kayne VINCENT 72'), 14. Jordan VALE, 17. Andrew BLAKE, 19. Logan ROGERSON (13. Dre VOLLENHOVEN 72'), 22. Mohamed AWAD.
SUBS NOT USED: 18. Conor TRACEY (GK), 4. Mario BILEN.
COACH: Jose FIGUEIRA.
5/6 March, 2021, Kiwitea Street, kick-off: TBC NZDT