Navy Blues look to build on winning run

Words: ACFC Media

Friday 16 February 2018

Picture: Phototek

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC travel to Tasman United in search of victory and a sixth consecutive ISPS Handa Premiership cleansheet.

Auckland City FC started the calendar year on a low following the three point deduction for fielding an ineligible player against Tasman United prior to the festive break.

Coach Ramon Tribulietx sees that administrative faux pas as now firmly in the past and as ever prefers to step back from the pressure of a minor title chase and examine the situation from a distance.

"Every game is a must-win but we don't want to look too far ahead of ourselves. Our next game is Tasman United and we have to understand what we have to do with and without the ball and impose those ideas on the game.

"Tasman played us straight after the Club World Cup and thats always a difficult time to play a match for us. Tactically they've changed their approach so we have to be ready for all scenarios.

AUDIO - Ramon Tribulietx on Tasman United

"They can be a very defensive team with five at the back for most of the game or employ another scenario where they play 4-4-2 and are a bit different.

"We'll try to play our game, dominate the ball and if we do that and control the game we know we'll create chances sooner or later. Mentally our focus is on the game - we don't want to look at the ladder too much," Tribulietx said.

Back to back draws with Waitakere United and Southern United saw the chasing pack reel the Navy Blues but since then Ramon Tribulietx's team have kicked on to a new level.

Four wins and a draw put paid to Canterbury United (2-0), Eastern Suburbs AFC (2-0), Hamilton Wanderers (1-0), Team Wellington (0-0) and Hawke's Bay United (3-0) as Auckland City FC regained top spot in the minor title race albeit with a slender one point advantage over their nearest rivals.

In 2007-08, Waitakere United went five matches without conceding a goal and last week's win over Hawke's Bay matched that sequence. Another clean sheet would see Auckland City FC eclipse that record.

AUDIO - Ramon Tribulietx on Navy Blues defence

"We've kept the opposition scoreless for a while now but I don't like to talk much about records themselves. The way we prepare the defensive side of things we always have a clear idea of two or three different systems in a pressing strategy.

"We are good at coping with those type of situations whether teams sit deep, put in crosses from wide areas, through balls - our team is tactically organised.

"We lost Kim after the Club World Cup but we're still defending tactically well. I believe in the collective side of things, football is a collective sport but we do have good individuals - we've got a great goalkeeper in Enaut Zubikarai, Angel Berlanga and Mario Bilen have each played a run of very good games.

"But I have to re-emphasise those individuals understand the collectivity of our game and if they didn't the performance wouldn't be the same. Both elements have contributed. And we always understand what the opponents bring to the party."

Tasman United were beaten 3-0 by Eastern Suburbs AFC last week and need a football miracle to close the six point gap on fourth place holders Canterbury United who also have a game in hand.

The ISPS Handa Premiership semi-finals are locked in for March 24-25 and the quarter-finals of the OFC Champions League for 7-8 April.

Auckland City FC's title run-in shapes up as a difficult one with the Navy Blues turning their attention to defence of their OFC Champions League title next week. Three matches in the space of a week with AS Venus, Madang and Lautoka at Trusts Arena loom before the Navy Blues host Eastern Suburbs AFC at Kiwitea Street on March 11.

They travel away to Wellington Phoenix on March 17 to wrap up their regular season programme.

Ends

Match Details
ISPS Handa Premiership
Saturday 17 February 2018
Tasman United v Auckland City FC
Saxton Park, Nelson
Kick-off: 2pm NZST
#TUvAC

AC (from): Zubikarai (GK), Graham, Iwata, Rogers, Morgan, Bilen, Berlanga, Hudson-Wihongi, Howieson, Wilkins, Riera, Tade, McCowatt, Lea'alafa, Tracey (GK), Peverley, Burfoot, Tavano, White, H Edge, Bright, Dordevic, Raniga.

Coach: Ramon Tribulietx

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