Words: ACFC Media
Monday 15 March 2021
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Jose Figueira expressed pride and satisfaction as his Navy Blues side overcome Eastern Suburbs AFC to reach the ISPS Handa Premiership grand final.
The Navy Blues defeated the Lilywhites 2-1 in a tense semi-final at Kiwitea Street on Sunday live on Sky Sport with Dylan Manickum and a Christian Gray own goal cancelling out a late strike by Ryan Feutz.
AUDIO INTERVIEW - Jose Figueira
Figueira was pleased to see his team take another step forward in its development as they rode out an Eastern Suburbs AFC onslaught in the closing stages of the game.
"We're delighted to make it through to the final. The first objective was to win the league which we've done and the second was to get our hands on that grand final trophy.
"To navigate the semi-final and reach the grand final is a great feeling all round.
"I think we're deserving of our win today. The last 15-20 minutes seige from Eastern Suburbs doesn't happen if we take our chances earlier on in the game.
"Going in 1-0 at the break we could quite easily have been two goals to the good.
"Certainly at the start of the second half I thought we were exceptional and carved out a number of golden chances.
"In knock out football you've got to make sure you take those and leave the opposition with no chance," he said.
Two weeks ago, Auckland City FC were unable to hold on for a Super City derby victory over Waitakere United, conceding a late goal that gave United a 2-2 draw.
Earlier this season, a late own goal also gave Eastern Suburbs AFC a 1-1 draw with the Navy Blues in the second league clash between the clubs.
Figueira said it was clear the Navy Blues had taken on board the painful lessons learned from those matches.
"I am proud we have learned a lot from our last league game with Waitakere where a similar thing happened and we were hanging on towards the end and they were pushing and got an injury time goal.
"The positive for today is that last 20 minutes the team were very resolute, rolled their sleeves up, they defended very well against an absolute bombardment.
"What we take away is the way we played for the majority of the first half and certainly the start of the second half. If we're just a little bit more clinical we can put these teams away and gain control a lot earlier," he said.
Figueira popped in a selection surprise picking Emiliano Tade and Andrew Blake with Jordan Vale and Yousif Al-Kalisy - two consistent performers - making way.
The Auckland City FC coach said the squad's commitment and willingness to contribute no matter what the selection has been a key strength this season.
He also pointed out the value Tade brings, playing in a somewhat unfamiliar position.
"The squad is in a very strong position which is where we want to be at this stage of the competition.
"Everyone is fit and raring to go allows us to be really flexible tactically and look at key areas today like midfield where we could gain an advantage especially they way Eastern Suburbs press aggressively.
"Having Emiliano a bit deeper with his quality on the ball and quality in between lines and tight spaces he showed today he's unfortunate not to get a goal himself.
"He's laid a couple on a plate for the other players so it was good for him to get 90 minutes under his belt.
"Jordan Vale and Yousif Al Kalisy both didn't start despite having top seasons which shows we're all in this together.
"The message has been whatever the role we need to players to play during the week, or whether you start or come off the bench, every contribution is vitally important," he said.
Now Auckland City FC look forward to their 12th grand final appearance and their fifth against Team Wellington.
"We know Team Wellington well, its a different challenge again and we'll be preparing as thoroughly as ever and spring a couple of surprises on them as well," he said.
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
Sunday 21 March 2021
Auckland City FC v Team Wellington
North Harbour Stadium, Albany
Kick-off: 3.00pm NZDT
Live on Sky Sport 7
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
Sunday 4 December 2022, Wellington Olympic, Mount Smart Stadium