Words: ACFC Media
Sunday 14 August 2022
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC are through to the OFC Champions League Final after grinding out a 2-0 win over a tough Central Coast side at Ngahue Reserve today.
A goal in each half by Adam Mitchell and Dylan Manickum broke the back of stubborn Solomon Islands resistance in a glowing performance by Albert Riera's team.
Central Coast came into the game after two wins over Lae City and Galaxy but with question marks over whether they would be able to prevent Auckland City FC from scoring.
The answer to that question came on 21 minutes when Gerard Garriga slid a well-timed free-kick into the path of Ryan De Vries whose shot skidded through a crowded penalty box before Mitchell cleverly intervened to steer the ball past goalkeeper Phillip Mango at close range.
Central Coast worked hard to prevent City from over running them but in doing sacrificed their own creativity and efficiency in the final third.
Jacob Moli's team showed great courage to maintain their effort in the second half but were fortunate to survive when Cam Howieson thumped a long range shot off the face of the crossbar.
With time running out, Central Coast threw one final attack forward and very nearly snatched a late equaliser.
That allowed Manickum to pick up the ball on a counter attack and unleash a brilliant shot that curled into the top left corner of the net deep into stoppage time to make it 2-0.
Auckland City FC advance to their tenth OFC Champions League final since 2006, its first since the 2016 final against Team Wellington, when they take on Tahitian side AS Venus.
Coach Albert Riera was delighted with his players who he said gave him everything they had.
"I thought the players did a fantastic job and gave a very efficient performance because when you have an emotional game like a semi-final with high stakes where one mistake can have a high price its not easy to play with composure.
"I thought we played with a lot of composure against a tough team - its not a coincidence Central Coast made a semi-final because they were very cohesive and very well organised.
"But we deserved the victory and Conor Tracey didn't have very much to do but the credit belongs to our players and I'm very happy for them because they deserve to be in the final.
"I'll tell you a secret - we didn't train that free kick yesterday so its nice to see some initiative from the players.
"We've been scoring a lot of goals and its always nice to see the players do something smart like that.
"The goal Dylan Manickum scored was unbelievable and the best I've seen from him he's a player that doesn't score many goals but when he does they're very important.
"I'm extremely happy for Dylan as he's been one of the stand out players for us and its nice his goal helped us qualify for the final.
"The last time we were in a semi-final was in 2017 and the last final we were in was 2016 so this is a huge opportunity for us.
"We want to win everything we can but the OFC Champions League is a special competition for this club.
"We're going to regroup and recover and then get ready for the OFC Champions League final on Wednesday," he said.
AS Venus won its semi-final with room to spare after thrashing Hienghene Sport 4-0.
The final takes place at Ngahue Reserve on Wednesday 17 August 2022 at 2.30pm NZDT.
The winner of the OFC Champions League Final earns the right to represent Oceania Football Confederation at the next scheduled FIFA Club World Cup, thought to be tentatively planned for February 2023.
OFC Champions League Semi Final
Sunday 14 August 2022
Auckland City FC 2 (Adam MITCHELL 21', Dylan MANICKUM 90'+4')
Central Coast FC 0
AC: 1. Conor TRACEY (GK), 2. Mario ILICH, 3. Adam MITCHELL, 7. Cam HOWIESON (c), 8. Gerard GARRIGA (17. Reid DRAKE 87'), 10. Dylan MANICKUM, 11. Ryan DE VRIES (20. Emiliano TADE 79'), 12. Sam BROTHERTON, 14. Jordan VALE, 15. Aidan CAREY, 16. Joe LEE.
SUBS NOT USED: 24. Cam BROWN (GK), 4. Christian GRAY, 6. Matt ELLIS, 9. Will ENG, 19. Liam GILLION, 21. Ilham HAMEEDI.
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
v Wellington Olympic, 11 March 2023, KO: TBC