Saturday 29 May 2021
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - A top class last gasp free-kick by Addison Stewart hands Auckland City FC U-23 a sensational 3-2 victory over Auckland United U-23 in the Lotto NRFL U-23 Premier Division today.
First team players Adam Thurston and Matt Ellis added steel to Kris Bright's U-23 side and neither disappointed in a hard-fought match.
City were slow to start and fell behind when Nicolas Zambrano gave United the lead after six minutes in a game that maintained a ferocious pace throughout.
The visitors nearly doubled the lead when they cannoned one effort off the crossbar and then goalkeeper Finn Dockerty came to the rescue when he denied United with a brilliant save on the half hour mark.
City's resistance fell apart when Wilson Souphanthavong capitalised on a defensive error to double the lead eight minutes before halftime.
The fightback from City, when it came, was awesome to behold.
Thurston, Alex Smith and Stewart, dominated the second half, along with Brooklyn Heath and it was United's turn to sustain relentless pressure.
Fittingly, it was Smith who scored City's first, his determination allowing him to slot home on the hour mark. City then hit the crossbar and it felt inevitable the home side would soon equalise.
Substitute Fardeen Mohammed made that goal materialise with 15 minutes left to play before Stewart left his mark with a dramatic and brilliant free-kick that left Hayden Stubbings, who had an impressive match, with no chance.
Assistant coach Paul Drake was delighted with the character, determination and passion shown by the team.
"I told the players at half time we needed those characteristics. A draw would've been a fair result but to get the winner at the last moment was fantastic.
"Make no mistake, this was a team performance and that's why I love coaching in this age group because we have very very good players and when they're in that form, its a pleasure," he said.
Of Stewart's sublime free-kick, Drake was measured but acknowledged he had some way to go yet.
"Addison is a special player. He still has a lot to learn like most players his age. He's got the quality in his locker. Hopefully, he can go further with it because he's a very good player," he said.
One player who stood not, perhaps not surprisingly, was Thurston, who Drake said set the benchmark for the U-23s.
"Adam Thurston gave 100 percent for Auckland City FC today. To have a first team player come in and give us everything showed his commitment. All the first team players who have appeared for us have given their all.
"Adam didn't want to come off, he wanted to stay on and help these players and that's the type of player and person he is," Drake said.
Lotto NRFL U-23 Premier Division
Saturday 29 May 2021
Auckland City FC 3 (Alex SMITH 61', Fardeen MOHAMMED 76', Addison STEWART 90+5')
Auckland United FC 2 (Nicolas ZAMBRANO 6', Wilson SOUPHANTHAVONG 37')
AC: 1. Finn DOCKERTY (GK), 4. Louie DANIELSON (16. Riley SEXTON 46'), 5. Anthony DUNCAN (15. Marcel STODDARD 57'), 6. Wilson FISHER, 7. Brooklyn HEATH, 8. Alex SMITH, 9. Finn McCRACKEN (11. Jeremiah RUAWHARE 65'), 10. Kristoff MULLER, 12. Adam THURSTON, 20. Matt ELLIS (13. Fardeen MOHAMMED 65'), 21. Addision STEWART.
SUBS NOT USED: 24. Hayden COOPER (GK).
COACH: Kris BRIGHT.
ASSISTANT COACH: Paul DRAKE.
v Al Ahly, Tangier, Feb 1 2023, KO: 8pm local