5 Things We Learned From Draw With Dragons

Words: ACFC Media

Tuesday 8 November 2016

Picture: Phototek

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC stayed top of the Stirling Sports Premiership for another week at least following Sunday's 0-0 draw with Canterbury United Dragons at Kiwitea Street - so what were some key findings from the match?

1. Micah Lea'alafa adds competition for places

The Solomon Islands international has returned to the club after a six month absence and adds further pace, skill and x-factor to an already exciting choice of strikers for Ramon Tribulietx.

More and more teams are choosing to sit deep and hit the Navy Blues on the counter-attack or from a set-piece, opting not to press the defence high up the pitch instead hoping to block up the passing lanes and congest midfield.

Lea'alafa, a futsal international veteran of three FIFA Futsal World Cups, is nature's answer to breaking down stubborn defences and its now a matter of assessing just how match fit he is.

There's no doubting Lea'alafa's dynamism and energy or his speed and skill. Stirling Sports Premiership defences, be warned - Lea'alafa isn't far away from action.

2. Joao Moreira's touch of class

Other players may certainly catch the eye, but Joao Moreira was the best player for the Navy Blues when it came to the spectacular.

Moreira reminded everyone in Kiwitea Street just how good he can be when he executed a perfect and breathtaking bicycle kick that nearly ended up in Danny Knight's top left hand corner with just 15 minutes left.

In general play, he had a quiet afternoon against Canterbury's deep-lying defence but made up for it with some intelligent playmaking. When he gets the ball throughout the game he unsettles defenders and opens up space for his teammates.

At one point late in the second half Auckland City FC's number 17 retained the ball while surrounded by three defenders before creating space for Clayton Lewis to fire over a handy cross for Ryan De Vries.

His capacity to bamboozle defenders one-on-one with his deft touch remains one of his best qualities.

3.Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi looks good at centre-back

Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi shines at centre-back for Auckland City FC. Last season and for the start of this, Hudson-Wihongi was deployed in his familiar central midfield beat.

That said, centre-back is a position he's not unfamiliar with having played there for New Zealand at the OFC Nations Cup, and with his undoubted technique and eye for a pass - a crucial quality at the club given its focus on possession - he's been a stand out in the past two games.

He also adds some much needed aerial aggression - Hudson-Wihongi relishes a physical battle as well and given he's just over 182cm in height he offers a threat at set-pieces.

Its hardly a rebirth, more an admission of his ability to change and adapt comfortably like another Navy Blues All Whites international, former skipper Ivan Vicelich.

4. Aaron Clapham is still a quality player

Coming into the start of the Stirling Sports Premiership much was expected of the Dragons main man Aaron Clapham, and it’s not hard to see why. The rest of the side looks solid but Clapham's the one player able to spark some x-factor for the Willy Gerdsen-coached team. And he hasn’t disappointed.

While he may not be in the All Whites squad anymore, he’s the man that makes Canterbury United tick and any talk of him not being able to cope with high expectation was kicked into Row Z with his hat-trick on his 100th appearance for the club against arch-rivals Southern United.

He was solid, disciplined and got in the ear of team-mates when they didn't press cohesively as per their game plan, and when it was required, knew when to get physical.

Fortunately for Auckland City FC his usual threat from set-pieces was missing in action but he remains a quality player.

5. Teams park the bus at Kiwitea Street

Getting a 0-0 draw isn’t that hard when that is the height of the away side’s ambition. That seems to be the thought process among the Stirling Sports Premiership clubs now the Navy Blues have hosted four opponents at Kiwitea Street.

Waitakere United, Team Wellington, Tasman United and Canterbury United have all sat deep with varying degrees of success underlining the importance of scoring the first goal and scoring it as early as possible for any team taking Freyburg Field.

Auckland City FC's attack showed what it can do when they are given the opportunity as Tasman United and Team Wellington can testify to but goalkeeper Danny Knight also came to the party for Canterbury United with some good saves.

There is more than enough evidence that unpicking that lock is key for Auckland City FC and despite drawing a blank on Sunday they have the depth and quality, pace and skill combined with deadly finishing to do so.



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