Preview - City set for massive game

Words: OFC Media

Friday 17 March 2023

Picture: Phototek

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - After a 1-1 draw last weekend, Auckland City FC and Wellington Olympic have it all to play for in the second leg of their OFC Champions League 2023 National Play-Off.

The NZ National Play-Off is the final match in an intriguing series of contests around the Oceania region, with the two sides meeting at Kiwitea St, Auckland, on Saturday afternoon NZT.

Auckland City FC coach Albert Riera says his team “know this is a massive game.”

“All the players and the club know that, they’ve been training very hard,” he said at the side’s final training during the week.

Wellington Olympic started last weekend’s game very strongly, creating several chances in the opening 10 minutes. Riera says that he takes the blame for the situation they found themselves in at Martin Luckie Park, where at halftime they were staring at a 1-0 deficit after Joel Stevens put a fired-up home side ahead.

“We didn’t start very well, especially since we knew we were playing against a good team. We’ve addressed that as well at the end of the game, but it’s not the first time that’s happened to us – so that’s a bit concerning. I’m 100 percent sure we can correct that. I have to be honest, the way we were playing tactically didn’t work. That was my bad. I said that to the players. But I am fortunate to have a good team – even if tactically it’s not working they can work around it,” he said.

Riera’s side certainly rallied in the second half, answering back with a goal to Christian Gray in the 79th minute, and were unlucky not to pull ahead with a flurry of chances as time expired.

“In the second half we played the way we wanted and took over and dominated. Sometimes it takes longer, especially when you play against good sides like Olympic, but we can’t get carried away. It was a draw.”

Auckland City FC have won the OFC Champions League a record 10 times, something that Riera is adamant they want to add to in 2023 by qualifying this weekend.

“We like to play these games, we want to play these games. The players are tactically and mentally ready, we know we’re playing against a very good team but playing at home in front of our home crowd means a lot.” 

At the match, Auckland City FC and Wellington Olympic will observe a moment's silence to acknowledge the passing of All Whites legend Grant Turner and also hand over playing gear for the Napier City Rovers Cyclone Gabrielle Relief effort. 

Also, former Navy Blues and All Whites coach Allan Jones will be present as a guest and both teams will sign a shirt for Grant's family with his name and number on it.

While all focus will be on the OFC Champions League place, also on the line is the Mediterranean Cup, competed for between both clubs since 2013. 

Ends

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Match Details
OFC Champions League National Playoff 2nd Leg
Saturday 18 March 2023
Auckland City FC v Wellington Olympic
Kiwitea Street, Sandringham
Kick-off: 4.00pm NZST

AC SQUAD (SEASON 2023): 1-Conor TRACEY (GK), 2- Mario ILICH, 3- Adam MITCHELL, 4-Christian GRAY, 5-Michael DEN HEIJER, 6-Dan MORGAN, 7-Cam HOWIESON (c), 8-Gerard GARRIGA, 9-Angus KILKOLLY, 10-Dylan MANICKUM, 11-Ryan DE VRIES, 12-Regont MURATI, 13-Nathan LOBO, 14-Jordan VALE, 15- Aidan CAREY, 16-Joseph LEE, 17- Ilham HAMEEDI, 19-Liam GILLION, 20- Emiliano TADE, 21- Adam BELL, 22-Tong ZHOU, 23- Matt ELLIS, 24-Joe WALLIS (GK), 25-Takuya IWATA, 26-Rayan TAYEB.

COACH: Albert RIERA
ASSISTANT COACH: Ivan VICELICH
GK COACH: Enaut ZUBIKARAI
TECHNICAL: Adria CASALS
TECHNICAL: Jarrod WALLACE
LOGISTICS: Colin COOK
PHYSIO: Matt PAYNE

Article reproduced courtesy www.oceaniafootball.com



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