Words: ACFC Media
Wednesday 20 July 2022
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC extended its lead at the top of the Northern League competition to 20 points after a 3-1 win over Manukau United at a rain-soaked Croatian Cultural Society last night.
The Northern League champions featured four changes to the side that defeated North Shore United 6-0 last Saturday with Alfie Rogers, Ilham Hameedi, Sam Brotherton and Gerard Garriga all rested with Adam Mitchell, Reid Drake, Mario Ilich and Aidan Carey restored to coach Albert Riera's line-up.
For Carey, it was his first appearance since June 25 and the 2-0 home win over Hamilton Wanderers in the Northern League.
VIDEO - Mario Ilich opens the scoring
With the title already secured the opening exchanges were tepid initially but that all changed when Ilich met an Emiliano Tade corner flush on the forehead to blast City into a tenth minute lead.
Manukau responded almost immediately when Maro Bonsu-Maro whipped in a dangerous cross that allowed former Navy Blues striker Keegan Linderboom to hit a powerful header beyond Cam Brown to equalise six minutes later.
City regained the lead through another defensive error when young goalkeeper Nathan Garrow slipped on the edge of United's penalty area allowing Drake to snaffle up the loose ball and whip it away for his team's second goal of the night.
That goal seemed to lift City and they enjoyed a period of dominance with Garrow, who barely had time to dwell on his earlier mistake, pulling off a series of top quality saves to keep his team in the game.
If the first half was something of a start-stop affair the second half was the mirror opposite.
United threw themselves into almost all-out attack, perhaps sensing the champions were not quite at their best having secured the title last weekend, with Gray, Mitchell, Lobo, Carey and Brown all asked to deal with an intense 20 minute period after the break.
City were not without their own threats, especially on the counter attack, with Ellis and Liam Gillion, often in combination with the marauding Nathan Lobo, a constant menace to United's back line.
VIDEO - Matt Ellis scores City's third goal of the night
The home side were rewarded for the defensive solidity with 12 minutes to go when Ellis treated the home crowd to a goal of exquisite quality when he ran at a defence that backed off too far before lifting a fine finish high into Garrow's top left corner to make it 3-1.
Albert Riera post-match remarks
Riera was delighted with another win and pleased with the performance of his team.
"I'm very pleased, very pleased. It was hard to play another midweek game especially for our players at a time where we are trying to overload them for what's coming (Chatham Cup, OFC Champions League, National League Championship).
"This is our plan and it increases the toughness of what we are doing.
"Every team we face is trying to stop our unbeaten run and that's why Manukau made it very hard for us tonight.
"I was pleased to see the young lads like Liam Gillion, and our players who haven't played that much like Aidan Carey, and they came in and did very well.
"Christian Gray and Adam Mitchell did very good and Matt Ellis scored a great goal - I'm not sure what it will take for Matt to smile, he probably has to score a hat-trick to see a smile on his face," Riera said.
Riera said playing an opponent like Manukau United which featured so many former City players added another layer to the psychological side of tonight's game.
"Before the game, I said to our players that a lot of players from Manukau wanted to prove a point tonight because they are very good players.
"It is always very hard to have opponents in front of you who are very motivated and ready to go and they proved that tonight," he said.
Undefeated Runs in Northern League and Superclub
The victory means Auckland City FC has now gone 19 games undefeated in the Northern League this season and is just three games short of an unbeaten season, a record that hasn't been seen since 1965 (57 years) when Eastern Suburbs completed the inaugural season undefeated winning 11 and drawing two from 13 games.
Eastern Suburbs campaign was left uncompleted with one game to go with Mount Wellington, their nearest challengers, five points adrift.
During the Superclub era, North Shore United and Waitakere City both finished the Northern Superclub undefeated in 1994, with City then going another seven games undefeated in the Superclub Championship round.
Their unbeaten run came apart in the playoffs when they lost first to Napier City Rovers (2-3), then North Shore United (0-3).
North Shore United's run to the title (they defeated Napier City Rovers 3-1 in the final) ended in the Superclub Championship round when they were beaten 3-1 athome by Waitakere City.
Another club to have a similar record is Metro. Metro completed an undefeated Northern Superclub campaign in 1996 when they recorded 16 wins and six draws from 22 games.
Metro went on to finish the season as New Zealand champions when they defeated Whanganui East Athletic and Dunedin Technical in the Superclub Championship round in Palmerston North.
While the Superclub was only in place for four seasons, the Northern League's top flight continued although somewhat watered down with no team during this period able to win the title without losing a game.
Tuesday 19 July 2022
Auckland City FC 3 (Mario ILICH 10', Reid DRAKE 24', Matt ELLIS 78')
Manukau United 1 (Keegan LINDERBOOM 16')
AC: 24. Cam BROWN (GK), 2. Mario ILICH, 3. Adam MITCHELL, 4. Christian GRAY, 6. Matt ELLIS, 11. Ryan DE VRIES, 13. Nathan LOBO, 15. Aidan CAREY (22. Takuya IWATA 84'), 17. Reid DRAKE (7. Cam HOWIESON 63'), 19. Liam GILLION, 20. Emiliano TADE (c) (16. Joe LEE 75').
SUBS NOT USED: 1. Conor TRACEY (GK), 12. Sam BROTHERTON.
COACH: Albert RIERA
ASSISTANT COACH: Ivan VICELICH
GOALKEEPER COACH: Enaut ZUBIKARAI
MANAGER: Keith COTON
ANALYST: Adria CASALS
TRAINER: Alejo LEGUIZAMON
TECHNICAL: Jarrod WALLACE
PHYSIO: Matt PAYNE
Tu 12 Dec 2023, Al Ittihad, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, KO: 9.00pm local