Words: ACFC Media
Monday 5 April 2021
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - A second half goal flurry gave Auckland City FC a comfortable 4-1 victory over Northern Rovers but the Navy Blues were made to work hard for their points at McFetridge Park today.
Cam Brown came into the line-up for Conor Tracey who picked up an injury in the warm-up as goalkeeper coach Enaut Zubikarai joined the bench for the first time this season. Angus Kilkolly, Mario Bilen and Emiliano Tade also won their first starts of the season.
A brilliant solo goal from skipper Tade, a first club goal for Kilkolly just after the break, an own goal from Louis Middeldorp and a late tidy finish from substitute Mohamed Awad cancelled out Solomon Islands international Andrew Abba's goal in an enthralling and at times physical showdown in Glenfield.
A small crowd of several hundred were treated to an exciting game although physicality dominated skill inside the first 30 minutes as Rovers set out to make life tough for City in their first ever encounter.
Auckland City FC rode out the initial blast by Rovers and when the opening goal came it was through a sublime piece of skill by Tade who slammed home from close range on 36 minutes. Abba equalised three minutes later with a great finish as Rovers roared back just before the break.
The visitors responded almost immediately, as they did against Manukau United on Friday, Kilkolly finding space in the penalty box to finish sharply just after the restart.
The match slipped away from Rovers when the unfortunate Middeldorp slotted past former City goalkeeper Liam Anderson with ten minutes to play and substitute Awad put the icing on the cake with a clinical finish on the angle with a minute remaining to make it 4-1.
Outstanding for Auckland City FC was former Croatian age-group international Bilen while Andrew Blake also caught the eye. Coach Jose Figueira acknowledged Rovers tactics and intensity played a key role to a tough first half.
"Northern Rovers deserve credit for the way they came out with a high press to try and make life uncomfortable for us and the message at half time from me to the team was that every team in the Northern League is going to come at us hard and fast and we've got to be ready for it.
"We weren't quite right for that intensity in the first 30 minutes but did well to overcome it. After that we found our rythmn, found spaces and took that into the second half where I thought we were excellent.
"We created a load of chances and I'm delighted with two wins in four days," he said.
"I'm pleased for Angus coming in and getting a goal. Mario Bilen set a great example today. He's hardly kicked a ball all summer. He's a player who looks after himself, trains well and he's come in and led by example today.
"Its great having a player like Mario Bilen because in the first half of the campaign we're going to need to be flexible, we're going to need to rotate players and he can play a number of positions including defensive midfield and at the back and I can see him doing a job for us there moving forward."
The Navy Blues next match is at home to Hamilton Wanderers on Saturday 17 April, 2021, at Kiwitea Street at 3pm NZDT.
Monday 5 April, 2021
Northern Rovers 1 (Andrew ABBA 39')
Auckland City FC 4 (Emiliano TADE 36', Angus KILKOLLY 47', Louis MIDDELDORP OG 80', Mohamed AWAD 89')
AC: 24. Cam BROWN (GK), 3. Adam MITCHELL, 4. Mario BILEN, 9. Angus KILKOLLY, 11. Reid DRAKE, 14. Jordan VALE, 15. Aidan CAREY (10. Dylan MANICKUM 58'), 16. Yousif AL-KALISY, 17. Andrew BLAKE, 20. Emiliano TADE (c) (6. Brian KALTAK 82'), 21. Matthew ELLIS (22. Mohamed AWAD 60').
SUBS NOT USED: 18. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 12. Sam BROTHERTON.
COACH: Jose FIGUEIRA.
CAUTIONS: Aidan CAREY, Andrew BLAKE.
Sat 15 May 2021, Melville Utd, KO: 3pm, Gower Park