Words: ACFC Media
Thursday 1 December 2016
Here are five things we learned from Auckland City FC's 4-1 away win over Hong Kong Rangers on Tuesday as we continue the countdown to the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2016.
1. Auckland City FC are back amongst the goals
The Navy Blues travelled to Hong Kong having scored just 10 goals in seven league games but scored four quality goals to lift their confidence ahead of the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2016. Dae Wook Kim, Joao Moreira and Clayton Lewis all scored in a 4-1 win as the Navy Blues netted as many goals at Tuen Mun Tang Shiu Kin Sports Ground as they had in their previous four matches combined. Joao Moreira's attacking qualities thrive around getting excellent service into the box and that paid off in style on Tuesday.
2. Navy Blues pair can crack open defences
Ryan De Vries and Joao Moreira have an intuitive understanding between them and De Vries set up Moreira with plenty of chances against Hong Kong Rangers which bodes well for December 8. The pair are central to the Navy Blues attack and coach Ramon Tribulietx will be delighted with how they linked up throughout the contest. Tribulietx had experimented with Nicolai Berry up front with Tade and Lea'alafa playing wide in the first half but the second half performance and the three goals that came with it shows the Navy Blues have a few more gears they can kick into. When you consider Tade's goals to game ratio reads two in every three games, there's reason for optimism.
3. Navy Blues are solid whoever plays in defence
No team has put more than a goal past the Navy Blues in a competitive match this season and its easy to see why. Dae Wook Kim lined up alongside Marko Dordevic at centre half and the Korean helped his team get off to a flying start with a brilliant headed finish off a Darren White corner on 17 minutes but his defending also caught the eye. Both Dordevic and Kim were excellent in one-on-one situations, so too skipper Angel Berlanga, who joined the fray in the second half. A spirited Hong Kong Rangers display resulted in a goal off a long throw-in but outwith that lapse Auckland City FC looked rock solid at the back. Enaut Zubikarai and Danyon Drake each enjoyed a half and bring different qualities with Zubikarai as brave as they come and Drake with a sophisticated technique with the ball at his feet. With Jacob Spoonley in the mix, the goalkeeper stocks are extremely high.
4. Mario Bilen and Albert Riera are quality
Hong Kong Rangers looked to have frustrated Auckland City FC after a stubborn first hour but Albert Riera and Mario Bilen kept a steady hand on the tiller as the Navy Blues rode out a difficult first half. Bilen, the former Croatia age-group international, seems to enjoy tussles with top opposition and lifts his game to the occasion. Riera, metronomic at the Wellington Phoenix, was again different class shifting possession around the centre of midfield and into the wide areas. With Bilen's physicality and quality on the ball and Riera's measured slickness dictating play, Auckland City FC have two major assets on their hands. All that's missing is New Zealand international, Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi.
5. The Navy Blues have talented young players
The Navy Blues employed plenty of homegrown talent against Hong Kong Rangers and Reid Drake showed he has the energy and ability to become a first-team regular over time. Nicolai Berry was exciting to watch in the first half with good link up play and Sean Cooper, 18, combined well with Drake and Clayton Lewis as the Navy Blues took the game to Hong Kong Rangers, especially in the second half. With Harry Edge and Alfie Rogers also showing some buzz, Auckland City FC have a wealth of homegrown youngsters that could form the basis of an exciting team in the coming seasons.
Sunday 4 December 2022, Wellington Olympic, Mount Smart Stadium