Words: ACFC Media
Sunday 14 March 2021
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC are through to the grand final of the ISPS Handa Premiership after a tight 2-1 win over Eastern Suburbs AFC at a packed Kiwitea Street today.
Dylan Manickum and an own goal by the unfortunate Christian Gray were enough to cancel out Ryan Fuetz late strike to see the Navy Blues into their first final since 2018 and their 12th since 2004-05.
Both sides started the game at an intense pace and the first goal arrived after just six minutes when Manickum latched onto a deflected clearance to slam home beyond Danyon Drake.
Logan Rogerson then went close lifting the ball over an advancing Drake only for the ball to narrowly miss its target. Drake prevented Manickum doubling the lead when he saved the Lilywhites falling further behind with an outstretched leg.
The visitors clung on and created a great chance of their own when Stafford Dowling hit a sweet half volley only to see it clip the crossbar.
Auckland City FC went close just after the break when Brian Kaltak steered a goalbound header at a wide open goal only for Drake to pull off save of the day when it looked a certain goal.
Suburbs must've thought something metaphysical was tipping fortune in their favour but they were disabused of that notion when Gray turned a Rogerson cross into his own net a minute later.
FULL TIME - #NavyBlues hold on by the skin of their teeth to secure a 2-1 win over @ESAFC to book their place in next weekend's grand final. #ACvES #ISPSHandaPrem #NavyBlues #StrengthInUnity pic.twitter.com/W8109u8NNv— Auckland City FC (@AucklandCity_FC) March 14, 2021
The visitors visibly slumped as the gravity of their situation dawned on them and it should've got much worse when the Navy Blues conspired to waste more good chances - the first when Manickum hit the post with the goal inviting to be scored and Tade lashing another over the bar.
Ryan Feutz pulled one back with a brilliant solo goal to set up and exciting finish and substitute Jake Mechell had Auckland City FC hearts in mouths when he struck a powerful shot onto the crossbar.
When the final whistle went it brought to the end 17 years of ISPS Handa Premiership football at Kiwitea Street and set up a fifth grand final showdown with Team Wellington at North Harbour Stadium in Albany on Sunday 21 March 2021.
The match kicks off at 3pm NZDT.
ISPS Handa Premiership
Sunday 14 March 2021
Auckland City FC 2 (Dylan MANICKUM 5', Christian GRAY OG 51')
Eastern Suburbs AFC 1 (Ryan FEUTZ 74')
AC: 24. Cam BROWN (GK), 2. Mario ILICH (16. Yousif AL-KALISY 71'), 3. Adam MITCHELL, 6. Brian KALTAK, 7. Cam HOWIESON (c), 10. Dylan MANICKUM, 17. Andrew BLAKE, 19. Logan ROGERSON, 20. Emiliano TADE (11. Kayne VINCENT 86'), 22. Mohamed AWAD, 23. Alfie ROGERS.
SUBS NOT USED: 18. Conor TRACEY (GK), 12. Sam BROTHERTON, 14. Jordan VALE.
COACH: Jose FIGUEIRA.
ISPS HANDA PREMIERSHIP - GRAND FINAL RECORDS
2020-21 - Auckland City FC v Team Wellington - Sunday 21 March, 2021, North Harbour Stadium, 3pm NZDT
2019-20 - No grand final due to Covid-19
2018-19 - Eastern Suburbs AFC 3-0 Team Wellington
2017-18 - Auckland City FC 1-0 Team Wellington
2016-17 - Team Wellington 2-1 Auckland City FC
2015-16 - Team Wellington 4-2 Auckland City FC
2014-15 - Auckland City FC 2-1 Hawke's Bay United
2013-14 - Auckland City FC 1-0 Team Wellington
2012-13 - Waitakere United 4-3* Auckland City FC aet
2011-12 - Waitakere United 4-1 Team Wellington
2010-11 - Waitakere United 3-2 Auckland City FC
2009-10 - Waitakere United 3-1 Canterbury United
2008-09 - Auckland City FC 2-1 Waitakere United
2007-08 - Waitakere United 2-0 Team Wellington
2006-07 - Auckland City FC 3-2 Waitakere United
2005-06 - Auckland City FC 3-3* Canterbury United aet
2004-05 - Auckland City FC 3-2 Waitakere United
v Wellington Olympic, 11 March 2023, KO: TBC