Lilywhites present tactical puzzler

Words: ACFC Media

Friday 23 March 2018

Picture: Phototek

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC must be ready for any tactical tweaks from Eastern Suburbs AFC as the two teams prepare for their ISPS Handa Premiership semi-final, according to coach Ramon Tribulietx.

Saturday's match is Auckland City FC's 30th in domestic playoff football as they chase a record-breaking seventh National League title while the Lilywhites make their first appearance since re-entering the top flight in 2016.

Tribulietx has overseen four straight wins over the Lilywhites in two seasons but the Navy Blues supremo is wary of a side he says bring a lot to the competition. Derek Tieku, he says, is one player his team will keep a keen eye on.

"Eastern Suburbs AFC are a team that we need to make sure we consider with serious respect.

"They’ve got players like Derek Tieku and Max Mata that can cause serious damage and require very little opportunity to do so.

“Tieku is one of those where he only needs ten yards to launch a counter attack then score an important goal - he even brings something to attacking set-pieces.

“As a team, Eastern Suburbs AFC tend to start with a lot of energy, they’re very young and they’ve got that extra motivation, that extra bit of energy that young players bring to the party, so we need to focus very carefully on how we start the match," he told

Last time out the Navy Blues needed a late goal from Callum McCowatt to edge their opponents 1-0 at Kiwitea Street and history shows clashes between the two teams tend to be closely fought affairs.

Tribulietx identified clear patterns from those encounters that raise red flags as he prepares his team for their shot at an 11th Grand Final since 2004-05.

“Eastern Suburbs AFC had a go at us in the first 10 or 15 minutes last time we met and they were very good.
"I don’t know if its going to be the same approach from them or if they’re going to play a back three or opt for the diamond formation they’ve played in the past.

"There might be a surprise in there and we need to be prepared for different types of approach - there might be a change coming.

“The playoffs are almost a new competition - both teams hit reset and start with zero points which can make a semi-final or grand final a 50-50 type of game so you never know what can happen," he said.

Auckland City FC are on a red-hot streak of top form in ISPS Handa Premiership semi-finals having won eight consecutive last four matches with their last defeat coming nearly six years ago when Team Wellington defeated the Navy Blues 4-2 on aggregate back in 2011-12 season.

Upsets have also visited Kiwitea Street in grand finals with the Navy Blues losing twice to both Team Wellington and Waitakere United.

Complicating the picture further will be the absence of key figures for both teams.

Cam Howieson, Auckland City FC's impressive midfield powerhouse, is away with the All Whites, as is Eastern Suburbs AFC skipper Tim Payne.

Also missing for the visitors is midfielder, Moses Dyer, who is serving a one-match suspension after he was sent off the second time in three matches in the Lilywhites 2-1 defeat to Canterbury United at Bill McKinlay Park.

Tribulietx said the impact of those losses brought new dynamics to an already compelling fixture.

“There are some questions marks on who’s going to play at the back for Eastern Suburbs AFC - Tim Payne has been very good in the centre back role.

"When they played with a back three, Tim was the man deployed to handle Emiliano Tade. We had a lot of 1-on-1 situations in their half, so he caused a lot of issues for us going forward last time out. Tim is a good player," he said.

Howieson would be missed but Tribulietx said his absence meant an opportunity for somebody else to step into the breach and make an impression.

“Cam’s played almost every minute when stepping on the pitch for us and he’s been fantastic this year. I've said it before that it’s great that he’s been selected for the All Whites squad.

“But our team remains very strong regardless of who we put on the pitch. There will be someone else playing in Cam’s position on Saturday. Our product will be very similar but with the differences of not having Cam there.”

The match will kick off at 2:05pm on Saturday 24 March, at Kiwitea Street.


Match Details
ISPS Handa Premiership Semi-Final
Saturday 24 March 2018
Auckland City FC v Eastern Suburbs AFC
Kiwitea Street, Sandringham
Kick-off: 2.05pm NZST

AC (from): Enaut Zubikarai (GK), Takuya Iwata, Alfie Rogers, Dan Morgan, Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, Angel Berlanga (c), Mario Bilen, Marko Dordevic, Albert Riera, Fabrizio Tavano, Dalton Wilkins, Owen Parker-Price, Callum McCowatt, Emiliano Tade, Conor Tracey (GK), Harry Edge, Reid Drake, Micah Lea'alafa, Harshae Raniga, Liam Graham, Kris Bright, Darren White.

International Duty: Cam Howieson (New Zealand)

Coach: Ramon Tribulietx

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