Words: ACFC Media
Saturday 4 June 2022
HAMILTON, New Zealand - A penalty save by Conor Tracey deep into additional time gave Auckland City FC the narrowest of 1-0 wins after they rode out a rampant performance by Melville United at Gower Park today.
City coach Albert Riera warned his team this match would be its toughest of the season so far and his prediction proved correct as the fit and fast home side threw everything into a performance that lacked for nothing but a goal.
While their mobility was their main asset, Melville United's controlled physicality also disrupted City's usually controlled attacking threats and what unfolded was an entertaining, end to end, affair that was difficult to take the eye off of.
Max Tommy had a strong game in goal for the Sam Wilkinson-coached team but he could do nothing when Joe Lee rolled home the opener after 36 minutes.
Scoring goals normally settles the Navy Blues but the home side's tenacity meant there was never a comfortable moment for Riera's team.
VIDEO - Joe Lee opens the scoring for Auckland City FC
35’ | 0-1— Auckland City FC (@AucklandCity_FC) June 4, 2022
GOAL!!!, Joe Lee#NavyBlues persistence pays off as Joe Lee trundles the ball beyond Max Tommy #StrengthInUnity #MUvAC pic.twitter.com/tYai7WdHMX
When United skipper Aaron Scott launched a rasping long range pass in behind the City defence, Nathan Lobo was forced into a last ditch tackle on Jerson Giraldo and referee Ben Norman awarded a penalty kick three minutes into time added on.
On the balance of play, it was no less than Melville United deserved and when Ryen Lawrence stepped forward in front of the clubrooms deck it felt odds on he would score to clinch a famous point.
Last season, the former New Zealand age-group international saved three out of four penalty kicks in a Chatham Cup win over Birkenhead United at Beach Haven and he kept up that remarkable record when he tipped Lawrence's penalty kick away to his left.
The save sparked jubilant celebrations among the Navy Blues players as referee Norman blew for full time.
VIDEO - Aaron Scott sets Jerson Giraldo away - penalty awarded
90’ | 0-1— Auckland City FC (@AucklandCity_FC) June 4, 2022
PENALTY, @MelvilleUnited #StrengthInUnity #MUvAC pic.twitter.com/o6ryfqrj4a
Riera had some stern words for his players.
"I was clear with the players before we came here: I knew it, I knew Melville would be difficult, I've been watching a lot of their games and the way they play and that's what we saw today.
"It's been an eye opener for us. But I'm very happy with the three points and the save by Conor was fantastic.
"But our performance wasn't good enough. It wasn't good enough and we have to get better for next weekend.
"We dodged a bullet today and I'm not sure we deserve the three points, to be frank," he told www.aucklandcityfc.com.
VIDEO - Conor Tracey saves Ryen Lawrence's penalty
90’+4’ | 0-1— Auckland City FC (@AucklandCity_FC) June 4, 2022
Conor Tracey saves it!#StrengthInUnity #MuVAC pic.twitter.com/rI6c4ZSqJz
In other matches, Birkenhead United leapfrogged over Melville United into second place after they drew 1-1 with Auckland United FC while Bay Olympic's 7-0 thrashing of North Shore United closed the gap between themselves and the top four to just two points.
Hamilton Wanderers recovered from their bruising 4-1 thumping by Melville United last week to hammer Western Springs 5-1 and rekindle their National League qualification hopes.
Manukau United's season is slowly cranking into gear after they edged Waiheke United 3-2 while an infusion of talent triggered a 4-0 win for Eastern Suburbs over Takapuna AFC.
The gap between Suburbs and Waiheke United and North Shore United, both firmly mired in the relegation zone, is now seven points.
Today's 1-0 win gives coach Albert Riera his 12th game unbeaten in charge of Auckland City FC and lifts him into second equal place for best starts to a tenure as first team coach. The record, held by Jose Figueira, is 14 games. Riera shares second place with Paul Marshall, who started his Auckland City FC career with 12 games unbeaten in the 2007-08 season. Colin Tuaa is fourth with 11 games.
Saturday 4 June 2022
Melville United 0
Auckland City FC 1 (Joe LEE 36')
AC: 1. Conor TRACEY (GK), 3. Adam MITCHELL, 7. Cam HOWIESON (c), 9. Angus KILKOLLY, 10. Dylan MANICKUM (8. Gerard GARRIGA 57'), 11. Ryan DE VRIES (20. Emiliano TADE 65'), 12. Sam BROTHERTON, 13. Nathan LOBO, 16. Joe LEE, 17. Reid DRAKE, 23. Alfie ROGERS.
SUBS NOT USED: 18. Finn DOCKERTY (GK), 15. Aidan CAREY, 19. Liam GILLION.
COACH: Albert RIERA
ASSISTANT COACH: Ivan VICELICH
GK COACH: Enaut ZUBIKARAI
ANALYST: Adria CASALS
PHYSIO: Matt PAYNE
MANAGER: Keith COTON.
Eastern Suburbs AFC 4-0 Takapuna AFC
Western Springs 1-5 Hamilton Wanderers
Manukau United 3-2 Waiheke United
Birkenhead United 1-1 Auckland United FC
Bay Olympic 7-0 North Shore United
v Western Springs, Sat 25 March 2023, Kiwitea Street, KO: 3pm NZST