Words: ACFC Media
Saturday 30 April 2022
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - A roaring performance saw Auckland City FC beat Birkenhead United 3-0 to ensure their unbeaten start to life under Albert Riera continued at a packed Kiwitea Street today.
In Riera's seventh game as Navy Blues' boss, his side led after a brilliant run and shot by All Whites midfielder Cam Howieson just before the break beat Damian Hirst just inside his left hand upright.
VIDEO - Conor Tracey saves from Luke Allport
However, second placed Birkenhead United came out re-energised after the break, going close on several occasions but unable to beat goalkeeper Conor Tracey and his solid defensive unit led by Angel Berlanga, Sam Brotherton, Jordan Vale and, playing against his former club, Nathan Lobo.
VIDEO - Cam Howieson makes it 1-0
44’ | 1-0— Auckland City FC (@AucklandCity_FC) April 30, 2022
GOAL!!!, #NavyBlues @CameronHowieson lashes home the opening goal just before the break! That’s his 18th goal for the club in his 118th game! #StrengthInUnity #ACvBU pic.twitter.com/Nbr6sg3Gzc
The visitors never gave up and caused City problems but their task became more difficult when Joe Lee latched onto a short headed backpass by Jackson Woods before teeing up Angus Kilkolly for the Navy Blues' second goal midway through the second half.
Substitute Emiliano Tade wrapped up the points when he curled a delightful freekick past Hirst with four minutes left to play in what is contender for goal of the week.
Victory for City means they are now five points clear of Birkenhead United at the top of the Northern League after seven rounds.
VIDEO - Angus Kilkolly sweeps home Joe Lee's cross
67' | 2-0— Auckland City FC (@AucklandCity_FC) April 30, 2022
Jackson Woods is short with his backheader, Joseph Lee steals in behind and sets up @AngusKilkolly16 who lashes home from close range! #StrengthInUnity #ACvBU #NZNationalLeague pic.twitter.com/JtEyvb86Xv
It was an utterly breathless match to watch and while Auckland City FC were more than worthy of their margin of victory, Birkenhead United deserved credit for the way they went about their work according to a satisfied Riera.
"It was what I expected. I talked to the players about how difficult this game was going to be.
"Every game is tough but you can see from today why Birkenhead United are so high in the table.
"They're a very difficult opponent, one who prevents you from playing the way you want to play, they're the type of team that never gives in and they went at us for the entire 90 minutes.
"Our players were exceptional today. I feel in every game they're getting better and better.
"They had to live up to expectations today and they did that exceptionally well.
"When you combine talent, team work and effort, you get a performance like the one we saw today," he said.
While picking out individual performances is not necessarily the Riera way, he did respond to questions about the performances of his defence, Joe Lee, striker Angus Kilkolly and Emiliano Tade.
"Joe Lee is working very well. Last season he played in the middle of the pitch for North Shore United and he has a lot to learn about playing on the flank.
"But he is doing the winger role exceptionally well. Joe is still a young kid, let's not forget that - he's only 18 years old - but he's doing great.
"He always demands the ball and I'm very happy with him," he added.
The defensive performance of Auckland City FC also caught the eye with the Navy Blues making it three cleansheets out of their last four games.
At the heart of that is the return of Berlanga and the performances of Tracey, Brotherton, Vale and Lobo.
Brotherton, in particular, has enjoyed a storming start to the season.
"Sam Brotherton, alongside the rest of the defenders and goalkeeper, he doesn't suprise me because I have the pleasure of seeing them train during the week.
"We always talk to the players about how the way you train is how you are going to perform in the games and Sam, and the rest of the players, always give us that during the week.
"I'm delighted our supporters can see there is ability there but it comes as no suprise to me. I know Sam well, I know his potential and the way he leads the team alongside Angel, this is the way they both are as individuals," Riera said.
With Kilkolly notching his seventh goal of the campaign in his seventh game, and also taking a lot of punishment, Riera cast his eye over his part in City's win.
"These type of games suit Angus very well. He's very strong and knows how to play with a defender behind his back.
"Angus gives us a lot in these games because he gives us a strong option to release the pressure and we planned on that a little bit today but credit to Birkenhead United because they challenged us in this aspect today.
"I would imagine that as a defender playing against Angus can be very tough but I am pleased for him that he got another goal," he said.
VIDEO - Emiliano Tade wraps up the game
Of the quality of the goals by Howieson and Tade, Riera said he had encouraged more from Howieson in particular.
"Before the season started, I had a chat with Cam and said I wanted to see him score more goals because its an attribute he's definitely got in his locker and his goal before halftime showed that.
"Tade is one of the most talented players in the league and we're very lucky to have him at Kiwitea Street. He only needs one or two chances during a game and he can score a goal and we all saw what is capable of," he said.
Elsewhere in Northern League action, Melville United defeated Western Springs 3-1 to go fifth, while their local rivals Hamilton Wanderers went goal crazy against North Shore United racking up a comprehensive 6-0 win that lifts them into the playoff spots.
Takapuna AFC and Bay Olympic drew 1-1 while Manukau United heaped further misery on Eastern Suburbs after beating them 2-0.
On Sunday, Waiheke United have their work cut out when they host Auckland United FC at Onetangi Sports Complex at 2.00pm.
Auckland City FC are on the road next week when they take on Manukau United at Walter Massey Park on Saturday 7 May 2022 at 3.00pm.
Saturday 30 April 2022
Auckland City FC 3 (Cam HOWIESON 43', Angus KILKOLLY 66', Emiliano TADE 86')
Birkenhead United 0
AC: 1. Conor TRACEY (GK), 2. Mario ILICH (19. Liam GILLION 87'), 5. Angel BERLANGA (c)(3. Adam MITCHELL 87'), 7. Cam HOWIESON, 9. Angus KILKOLLY, 10. Dylan MANICKUM (20. Emiliano TADE 81'), 12. Sam BROTHERTON, 13. Nathan LOBO, 14. Jordan VALE, 15. Aidan CAREY, 16. Joe LEE (17. Reid DRAKE 70').
SUB NOT USED: 24. Cam BROWN (GK).
COACH: Albert RIERA
ASSISTANT COACH: Ivan VICELICH
GOALKEEPER COACH: Enaut ZUBIKARAI
MANAGER: Keith COTON
ANALYST: Adria CASALS
PHYSIO: Matt PAYNE
REFEREE: Matt CONGER
ASSISTANT REFEREE 1: Mark RULE
ASSISTANT REFEREE 2: Tevita MAKASINI
Melville United 3-1 Western Springs
Takapuna AFC 1-1 Bay Olympic
Eastern Suburbs AFC 0-2 Manukau United
Hamilton Wanderers 6-0 North Shore United
Auckland City FC 3-0 Birkenhead United
Waiheke United v Auckland United FC
Onetangi Sports Complex, Waiheke Island - 2.00pm
Sunday 4 December 2022, Wellington Olympic, Mount Smart Stadium