Words: ACFC Media
Monday 18 February 2019
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC coach Ramon Tribulietx says his squad is in a good place after downing Hamilton Wanderers 3-2 at a sweltering Kiwitea Street on Sunday.
The Navy Blues raced into a 3-0 lead with two goals from the penalty spot for David Browne and Cam Howieson interrupted by a cheeky first-touch-of-the-ball backheel from Maro Bonsu-Maro.
Tommy Semmy and Martin Bueno pulled back two late goals after uncharacteristic mistakes brought Wanderers back to within a goal.
The Navy Blues held on for the victory and extended their unbeaten run to 41 matches, a record comprised of 34 wins and seven draws in both the ISPS Handa Premiership and OFC Champions League stretching back to 2017.
Tribulietx now turns his focus towards the OFC Champions League when he and his charges leave for Honiara on Thursday but declared himself happy with yesterday's win.
RESULTS | In case you haven't caught up yet, here's what happened in the @ISPSHanda Premiership over the weekend as @CU_Dragons booked a berth in the play-offs and @AucklandCity_FC continued their unbeaten run #ISPSHandaPrem pic.twitter.com/ejAjWWMhfX— New Zealand Football (@NZ_Football) February 17, 2019
"It was a very good game and we played very football for most of the game. We scored three goals but switched off for the two late goals.
"These things can happen but in a way it's good because the players will remember those moments and not repeat them," he said.
In the frantic final moments substitute Yousif Ali got himself into a tangle that Hamilton Wanderers took advantage of but Tribulietx backed up his young midfielder who he says has been otherwise impressive this season.
"Yousif is a very young player and he understands that we take risks with the ball and you can be put in positions where you have to make strong decisions.
"The decision making on the ball is very important but Yousif has done really well for us this season and he'll learn from that moment," he said.
The Navy Blues started with several new faces in Omar Guardiola and Patrick Lundemo while Reid Drake made his first appearance since rolling his ankle in the away win at Hawke's Bay United last month.
"We had two new players starting today and that is a process of learning for them.
"We created a good number of chances in both halves and I'm happy with what we did today and how our players came through the match," he said.
With the OFC Champions League now just over a week away, Tribulietx was coy on whether this season's squad was in a stronger position to compete in the Oceania showpiece than last season's.
"It's hard to make comparisons to past squads. We do have a strong core of 18 players and three very promising youngsters with the likes of Jackson Woods.
"The youngsters are looking very good and the squad overall is very capable. We've got a lot of balance in there and players capable of playing in a number of positions.
"I haven't had a chance to look at AS Magenta in too much depth given we've had a full schedule.
"I remember AS Magenta from past experiences and the calibre of players they have with the likes of Wajoka, Wadriako and Athale.
"We have a week to get down to the fine detail and how we'll tackle that match," he said.
One player who continues to catch the eye is former Junior Navy Blues attacker Maro Bonsu-Maro. Bonsu-Maro made an instant impact when he came off the bench to score with his very first touch, an audacious backheel from a Drake pass.
Tribulietx is a big admirer of Bonsu-Maro and is interested to see how far and at what pace his game can grow.
"Maro Bonsu-Maro did very well. He's grown very fast and came on to score another goal but not only that he did three or four things that were pleasing.
"When he comes into a game he gives us a lot of options which is important for the way we want to play.
"Maro can be very important in the OFC Champions League and he's given us a big lift with two important goals that resulted in six points in the ISPS Handa Premiership.
"We are still in a learning process with so many new players but the squad right now is very competitive."
The OFC Champions League opens on Sunday 24 February 2019 at Lawson Tama Stadium, Honiara, Solomon Islands, when the Navy Blues take on AS Magenta.
ISPS Handa Premiership
Sunday 17 February 2019
Auckland City FC 3 (David BROWNE 48'-pen, Maro BONSU-MARO 73', Cam HOWIESON 79'-pen)
Hamilton Wanderers 2 (Tommy SEMMY 89', Martin BUENO 90+2'-pen)
AC: 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 5. Angel BERLANGA (c), 7. Cam HOWIESON, 8. Albert RIERA (16. Yousif ALI 46'), 13. Patrick LUNDEMO (10. Maro BONSU-MARO 72'), 14. Jordan VALE, 15. Dan MORGAN, 17. Reid DRAKE, 19. David BROWNE, 20. Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI (2. Darren WHITE 60'), 22. Omar GUARDIOLA.
SUBS NOT USED: 18. Ruben PARKER (GK), 12. Dylan MANICKUM.
COACH: Ramon TRIBULIETX.
Sunday 4 December 2022, Wellington Olympic, Mount Smart Stadium