Auckland City FC will finish 2015 top of the ASB Premiership after a 2-0 away win over us at FMG Stadium Waikato on Sunday.
Daewook Kim’s first goal for Auckland City, a tap-in in the 18th minute, and Emiliano Tade’s clinical finish five minutes after the break secured the points for the champions in an entertaining sixth round ASB Premiership encounter.
The first half was all action with both sides hitting the woodwork and having a goal ruled out for off-side. Loaded WaiBOP United’s keeper, Zac Speedy, also saved a Tade spot kick just prior to Kim’s goal.
The reigning champions made four changes to their regular starting line-up with work commitments forcing Jacob Spoonley out of the selection picture while ever-presents Marko Dordevic, Takuya Iwata and Joao Moreira were also missing.
That allowed coach Ramon Tribulietx to hand first up domestic appearances for three players with strong ties to the Waikato with goalkeeper Danyon Drake, our first choice keeper in 2014/15, and defenders Jesse Edge and Alfie Rogers stepping in.
Auckland City FC had the edge in a cagey first half with Mario Bilen hitting the post after just nine minutes and Ryan De Vries also forcing Zac Speedy into an early save.
Speedy was in the spotlight again on 18 minutes when the former New Zealand age group goalkeeper superbly saved a penalty from Emiliano Tade.
Elation turned to despair within seconds for us when the visitors worked a short corner that allowed Kim to score from close range after Ryan De Vries supplied a cross from a deflected Bilen shot.
We nearly got back into the game ten minutes before the break when Mark Jones struck the Navy Blues’ upright following a Ryan Tinsley free-kick.
Tade made amends for his earlier wastefulness in front of goal just after the restart with a superb right foot finish beyond Speedy five minutes after the restart.
Speedy had a superb afternoon and later denied De Vries in a one-on-one situation as the game opened up in the latter stages.
Wade Molony had the ball in the net for WaiBOP United with 18 minutes left but the goal was chalked off for offside then missed a top chance to score two minutes into additional time but skewed his effort.
Loaded WaiBOP United’s coach, Peter Smith, was disappointed by the result but realistic enough to know he got beaten by a good side. “I think Auckland did deserve to win, to be fair, but with a wee bit of a rub of the green it might have been different,” he said after the match. “We created a few chances and the lads stuck to the game plan on the whole. Auckland were fortunate with the penalty and it was a bit soft that after a great save from Zac we conceded from a corner.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Smith ahead of the Christmas break. “We’ll be getting the lads in between now and the new year. We’ll keep working away and striving to win.”
WaiBOP United 0-2 Auckland City FC (half: 0-1)
AC: Dae Wook Kim 18′, Emiliano Tade 50′.
Loaded WaiBOP United: Zac Speedy; Scott Hilliar, Adam Mitchell, Tom Provert, Finn Cochran; Alexis Varela (Xavier Pratt 68’), Ryan Tinsley; Wade Molony, Federico Marquez (Mario Ilich 73’), Mark Jones; Stephen Hoyle (Dylan Stansfield 83’). Subs (not used): Louie Caunter, James Hoyle.
Auckland City: Danyon Drake, Mario Bilen (Clayton Lewis 69’), Angel Berlanga (Michael Den Heijer 83’), Jesse Edge, Mikel Alvaro, Ryan De Vries, Te Atawhai Hudson Wihongi, Alfie Rogers (Darren White 79’), Daewook Kim, Micah Lea’Alafa, Emiliano Tade. Subs (not used): Liam Anderson, Nathanael Hailemariam.