Words: ACFC Media
Sunday 15 August 2021
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - José Figueira praised Auckland City FC as deserving Northern League champions but admitted it was a strange feeling after a tough day at Birkenhead United.
The Navy Blues lost 4-3 in an error-strewn game as Birkenhead United gained revenge for its 5-0 thrashing at Kiwitea Street and Chatham Cup exit on penalty kicks at the same venue in July.
Auckland United FC's failure to beat Chatham Cup semi-finalists North Shore United handed the title to the Navy Blues with Hiroshi Miyazawa's second placed United 11 points behind with just three matches left to play.
Figueira said his players were worthy champions and he may now look at experiment with a few things with the title and qualification for the National League Championship now in the bag.
"It's a strange feeling to win the league and have a disappointing performance and result but the league is measured over the course of a whole season and its only our second loss.
"The players deserve to be champions on merit and the table reflects that fact. Its great to secure the title as it was one of our objectives for 2021 and we've achieved it," he said.
The game itself produced a crazy seven goals with neither side's defence able to withstand the others attack.
"Its never dull when we play at Shepherd's Park and face Birkenhead United. They're very aggressive, play very much on the front foot and their direct both on the ground and in the air.
"They carry a lot of attacking threats up top but today's result is down to us and its our own undoing. While we started ok and took the lead, within 60 seconds we lose two goals and find ourselves 2-1 down.
"I said to the players that we handed Birkenhead United all four goals and if we're going to do that its going to be a mountain to climb in a game here and that's what happened.
"We may experiment with a few things in the next three games now the league title is wrapped up. We've had one or two injuries, suspensions and illnesses in recent weeks and not had our full quota of players available and hopefully that should clear up.
"We've got an opportunity to look at everyone and stake a claim for a place ahead of the National League Championship phase," he said.
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