Words: ACFC Media
Sunday 24 February 2019
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - Auckland City FC had to survive a nervy finale as they downed AS Magenta 2-1 to grab an OFC Champions League victory in the punishing heat and humidity of Honiara.
Micah Lea'alafa teed up Dan Morgan for the opener within the first five minutes before doubling the lead himself when he made a lung bursting run to finish beyond the goalkeeper high at the near post.
The Navy Blues created several good chances to extend their advantage but wastefulness in front of goal combined with the energy sapping conditions and 97 percent humidity conspired against them.
The match took a twist when Richard Sele pulled one back for AS Magenta deep into additional time but the Navy Blues held on to stretch their unbeaten run in the OFC Champions League to 26 matches just one short of the competition record of 27 set by the club between 20 February 2008 and 31 March 2012.
VIDEO - Dan Morgan scores the opener
With the 9-times champions facing tournament minnows Tupapa Maraerenga next - and with the Cook Islanders thrashed 10-1 by the Solomon Warriors in the day's other match - coach Ramon Tribulietx and his players can be confident they will at least match that record.
While Tribulietx was pleased with the first up win it was clear he feels there is room for improvement.
"It was a game where we played a very good first half in hot conditions and we wanted to keep the ball and make sure we didn't spend too much energy early on.
"We scored two in the first half and could've had a couple more. We could've been a bit more attacking minded but again we would've spent more energy in trying to do that.
"In the second half we struggled with the drop in energy levels and out of not much they had a couple of counter attacks and one-on-one situations in the wings and that results in their goal near the end.
"We controlled the game better in the first half and a combination of a lack of energy and Magenta starting to get out is what happened in the second half," he said.
Auckland City FC have made a habit of conceding late goals this season with Hamilton Wanderers the most recent benefactors when the notched two late goals in the Navy Blues 3-2 win in the ISPS Handa Premiership.
"We had a great chance to go 3-0 up but didn't take the opportunity.
"We've had this situation a couple of times this season and we need to manage these situations a bit better.
"The outcome and result is what we were looking for so we have to be happy about that," he told www.aucklandcityfc.com.
Tribulietx opted for experience in his line-up with Albert Riera and Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi handed starts after lengthy injury layoffs and both came through the conditions well.
But the Navy Blues weren't without some injury concerns with Lea'alafa and Jordan Vale both carrying knocks.
32'- GOAL!!! Dylan Manickum sets up hometown hero Micah Lea'alafa who sends his thunderous shot from an acute angle into the back of the net doubling the #NavyBlues lead.— Auckland City FC (@AucklandCity_FC) February 24, 2019
#OFCCL 2-0 pic.twitter.com/w41btUzbbW
Tribulietx was impressed with the unity and togetherness his team displayed in one of Oceania's toughest arenas.
"Micah Lea'alafa felt some tightness and the difference is big between playing in Auckland than Honiara or Hong Kong.
"We'll take a look at that situation with him and with Jordan Vale who also felt the conditions.
"The team suffered together and put themselves about today and as a collective they came together very well when we were struggling.
"Te Atawhai and Albert gave good performances and both have not had much football in recent times and they were very good in the first half but the second was tough which we expected.
"We've picked up three points in tough conditions but we have to learn to manage the games a bit better in future."
The Navy Blues next match is with Tupapa Maraerenga on February 27.
The match kicks off at 3pm NZST.
OFC Champions League - Group D
Sunday 24 February 2019
Auckland City FC 2 (Dan MORGAN 4', Micah LEA'ALAFA 31')
AS Magenta 1 (Richard SELE 90+3')
AC: 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 5. Angel BERLANGA (c), 7. Cam HOWIESON, 8. Albert RIERA (16. Yousif ALI 67'), 10. Micah LEA'ALAFA (22. Omar GUARDIOLA 70'), 11. Fabrizio TAVANO, 12. Dylan MANICKUM, 14. Jordan VALE ( 23. Alfie ROGERS 84'), 15. Dan MORGAN, 19. David BROWNE, 20. Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI.
SUBS NOT USED: 18. Ruben PARKER (GK), 17. Reid DRAKE, 21. Maro BONSU-MARO.
COACH: Ramon TRIBULIETX.
v Al Ahly, Tangier, Feb 1 2023, KO: 8pm local