Words: ACFC Media
Sunday 19 March 2023
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC’s dreams of an eleventh continental crown remain on track following a thrilling 5-3 comeback win over Wellington Olympic in the 2nd Leg of Saturday’s OFC Champions League National Playoff at Kiwitea Street.
Trailing 3-1 with less than 30 minutes on the clock and facing elimination from Oceania’s premier club football competition, Navy Blues talisman Emiliano Tade produced a performance for the ages by completing a stunning hat-trick and a sublime assist to boot to turn the tie around.
After sharing the points in the opening leg at the nations’s capital last weekend. the equation was simple with both sides needing victory to claim New Zealand's lone spot at Oceania’s premier club football competition.
The tense early exchanges burst into high drama in the 16th minute with the visitors grabbing the lead courtesy of skipper Ben Mata who calmly slotted home from the penalty spot after a foul on Tor Devenport Petersen inside the box.
City were back on level terns seven minutes later when Liam Gillion found himself on the end of a pinpoint pass from Cam Howieson, before cooly lifting the ball over Scott Basalaj’s stretched arms.
The explosive action continued just minutes later as Olympic reestablished their advantage thanks to a long range bullet by Hamish Watson.
Albert Riera’s charges pushed forward in search of an equaliser after the break but were caught out by a swift counter in the 62 minute with Joel Stevens sending in a cross from the left wing to set up Watson inside the box for his second and his side’s third.
VIDEO - Emiliano Tade free-kick
GOAL!!!— Auckland City FC (@AucklandCity_FC) March 18, 2023
Emiiiiiilllliano Taaaaaaade#SttengthInUnity pic.twitter.com/YXxYUHZ0vW
However, the defending champions weren’t finished yet and Tade who came on as a second half substitute was in no mood to throw in the towel.
He pulled one back for City to make it 3-2 with a perfectly directed free kick from an acute angle in the 74th minute before stepping up to the penalty spot three minutes later to restore parity.
With the the momentum shifting in favour of the home side Tade was again on hand to set up Angus Kilkolly with a superb through ball to give City the lead for the first time in the match with just 5 minutes to go.
And the 35-year old forward wasn’t finished yet, putting the icing on the cake by converting his second spot kick for his hat-trick in the dying stages.
VIDEO - Angus Kilkolly goal
The angle doesn’t tell the whole story of the pass from Tade. The touch and weight to find Kilkolly, whilst denying Basalaj the opportunity to bite.— Jacob Spoonley (@JacobSpoonley) March 18, 2023
OFC Champions League National Playoff 2nd Leg
Saturday 18 March
Kiwitea Street, Sandringham
Auckland City FC 5 (Liam GILLION 23’ Emiliano TADE 74’-pen 77’ 87’- pen Angus KILKOLLY 85’)
Wellington Olympic 3 (Ben MATA 16’ -pen Hamish WATSON 28’ 62’)
AC: 1. Conor TRACEY (GK), 4. Christian GRAY, 5. Michael DEN HEIJER, 7. Cam HOWIESON (c), 8. Gerard GARRIGA, 9. Angus KILKOLLY (20. Emiliano TADE 73'), 10. Dylan MANICKUM, 12. Regont MURATI, 13. Nathan LOBO, 19. Liam GILLION, 22. Tong ZHOU (16. Joe LEE 60').
SUBS NOT USED: 24. Joe WALLIS (GK), 2. Mario ILICH, 4. Christian GRAY, 14. 15. Aidan CAREY., 23 Matt Ellis
COACH: Albert RIERA
ASSISTANT COACH: Ivan VICELICH
GK COACH: Enaut ZUBIKARAI
TECHNICAL: Adria CASALS
TECHNICAL: Jarrod WALLACE
LOGISTICS: Keith COTON
PHYSIO: Matt PAYNE
v Bay Olympic, Sat 1 April 2023, Kiwitea Street, KO: 3pm NZST