Words: ACFC Media
Friday 12 March 2021
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC face a Gridlock Derby semi-final with Eastern Suburbs AFC and the incentive to win and advance to the last ever ISPS Handa Premiership final has never been higher.
Eastern Suburbs AFC needed to beat Hawke's Bay United to snatch the semi-final spot off Waitakere United and they managed that with a 2-1 victory in Napier on Wednesday. Auckland City FC coach Jose Figueira said there was no preference of opponent from his perspective but he did warn of the inherent risk of a one-off knock out match.
"In all honesty, we had no preference for either Eastern Suburbs or Waitakere United, we knew either way it would be a tough encounter. We were always destined for a classic derby match which always adds spice to the occasion.
"Both these teams have distinct styles of play that can very effective. We know Suburbs very well and we share similar ideals in terms of being possession based with a real tactical lense.
"We're really looking forward to this knock out game and a big crowd down at Kiwitea Street which is something I know the players really thrive on. "The obvious pitfall in a one off game is exactly that. You've got to be proactive and get after the game and impose your personality and stamp on the game right from the beginning.
"The important of what we do in both boxes defensively and in an attacking sense are generally what decides these types of games," he told www.aucklandcityfc.com.
Auckland City FC's premiership run-in has been punctuated by two lockdowns and while that disrupted the Navy Blues preparations Figueira said the club's systems and contingencies kicked in to offset the blip.
"The lockdown was frustrating because you want to keep momentum on the training pitch together. We've been through a couple of these as a team and we were well prepared as a team to stay connected and analyse and review previous games and look ahead to what is coming as well.
"The players have looked ultra motivated and that stop last week has made everyone hungrier to get out there onto the pitch and we're looking forward to the game on Sunday," he said.
Auckland City FC's injury woes have eased off and Figueira now has a fully fit squad to choose from which spells good news for Navy Blues fans. "I'm left with the great problem of plenty of selection head aches which is exactly where we want to be at Auckland City FC," he confirmed.
AUDIO INTERVIEW - JOSE FIGUEIRA
Two people who won't be there to see Auckland City FC's final ever home game in the ISPS Handa Premiership are Paul and Tonka Marinovich. Paul, a lifelong supporter of both Auckland City FC and Central United FC, went into hospital on Friday for an operation and will miss both the semi-final and final, his first missed matches in 17 years of being a Navy Blue.
"On behalf of everyone at Auckland City FC I want to wish Paul Marinovich and his wife Tonka all the best for his recovery. We'll miss his and Tonka's presence on Sunday in their usual spot pitchside and we'll be looking to achieve the right result for them and everyone at the club," Figueira said.
While disruption has characterised the club's last couple of weeks, the looming Lotto NRFL Premier Division campaign is also on the horizon. Rumours circulating that the start of the season may be delayed or alternative fixture lists prepared have emerged in recent weeks but Figueira laughed off any mention of the possibility.
"We're not thinking about a single thing connected to the winter season or what lies ahead - we're fully focused on Sunday. "Its fair to say the club has been through a challenging period and worked through a lot of things in the background attached to the new season.
"All those hours of work and time and energy that goes into the club is something that brings people a lot of joy and happiness at the club.
"But we're not focused any further than this Sunday and like in any match our first priority is to go out there and perform to the highest level possible and produce exciting and attacking football.
"Like this club has always done we want to win this game and get to the big show." The match between Auckland City FC and Eastern Suburbs AFC kicks off at 2.05pm NZDT at Kiwitea Street on Sunday 14 March 2021.
The game is live on Sky Sport 7. Another football match to catch the eye is the Brian Stanyer Memorial Cup.
The annual friendly game between Mount Albert Ponsonby and Central United FC takes place on Saturday 13 March, 2021, at Anderson Park.
The game kicks off at 3.00pm NZDT.
ALERT LEVEL 1 - The New Zealand Government confirmed a shift from Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 1 at midday on Friday. Fans are welcome to attend both the Brian Stanyer Cup and ISPS Handa Premiership semi final as per normal.
ISPS Handa Premiership - Semi Final
Sunday 14 March 2021
Auckland City FC v Eastern Suburbs AFC
Kiwitea Street, Sandringham
Kick-off: 2.05pm NZDT
LIVE - Sky Sport 7
AC: 24. Cam BROWN (GK), 2. Mario ILICH, 3. Adam MITCHELL, 4. Mario BILEN, 6. Brian KALTAK, 7. Cam HOWIESON (c), 8. Albert RIERA, 9. Kayne VINCENT, 10. Dylan MANICKUM, 11. Tom DOYLE, 12. Sam BROTHERTON, 13. Deandre VOLLENHOVEN, 14. Jordan VALE, 15. Aidan CAREY, 16. Yousif AL-KALISY, 17. Andrew BLAKE, 18. Conor TRACEY (GK), 19. Logan ROGERSON, 20. Emiliano TADE, 21. Maro BONSU-MARO, 22. Mohamed AWAD, 23. Alfie ROGERS.
COACH: Jose FIGUEIRA.
ISPS Handa Premiership - Semi Final 1
Saturday 13 March, 2021
Team Wellington v Hamilton Wanderers
David Farrington Park, Wellington - kick-off: 2.05pm NZDT
Live on Sky Sport 7
Brian Stanyer Memorial Cup
Saturday 13 March, 2021
Mount Albert Ponsonby AFC v Central United FC
Anderson Park, Mount Albert - kick-off: 3.00pm NZDT
Live updates via Central United FC Twitter
The top scorer in the Gridlock Derby is Emiliano Tade. The Argentine forward has netted six goals in this fixture since 2016-17 season. This is just the second time the two clubs have met in an ISPS Handa Premiership semi-final and the first in three years.
The Lilywhites have had an inconsistent campaign and mustered only two wins from their last eight ISPS Handa Premiership matches. They have won just three out of their last nine away games, losing the other six, dating back to 20 January, 2020. The Lilywhites were thrashed 7-0 by Team Wellington and 4-0 by Waitakere United on recent road trips but also dished out an 8-0 hammering of the Wellington Phoenix in January.
Eastern Suburbs AFC are yet to register a victory over Auckland City FC since they rejoined the top flight in 2016-17 season. In 11 matches, Auckland City FC have won nine encounters with the spoils shared in two draws. Eastern Suburbs AFC have scored just four goals in this fixture while the Navy Blues have an aggregate of 18.
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (H) won 1-0 (Emiliano TADE)
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (A) drew 1-1 (Dylan MANICKUM | Own Goal)
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (H) drew 0-0
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (A) won 2-0 (Myer BEVAN, Brian KALTAK)
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (A) won 1-0 (Dylan MANICKUM)
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (H) won 3-2 (Micah LEA'ALAFA 2, Brian KALTAK) | (Callum McCOWATT, Dominic WOOLDRIDGE)
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 Final
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (A) won 1-0 (Emiliano TADE)
v. Eastern Suburbs AFC (H) won 2-1 (Joao MOREIRA, Emiliano TADE) | (Moses DYER)
v Wellington Olympic, 11 March 2023, KO: TBC