The win means Auckland have now written themselves into the record books as the first side to win three Oceania titles in a row and they will earn another piece of history when they travel to Morocco in December by becoming the club with the most appearances at a FIFA Club World Cup (five – in 2006, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013).
Waitakere could well have been the history makers instead this afternoon as they were chasing an unprecedented quadruple of titles – after already pocketing three domestic honours – but could only reply to an early two-goal burst by Auckland with a Chad Coombes strike shortly before the break.
There was no further scoring in a tense second half – the most significant moment of which arrived in the 59th minute when Waitakere defender Tim Myers was sent off for a second bookable offence – and those first-half efforts from Adam Dickinson and Alex Feneridis proved to be enough for City to become the first team to lift the newly-designed Champions League trophy.
Having been forced to play second fiddle to Waitakere’s victorious exploits for much of the season, Auckland coach Ramon Tribulietx was delighted to have gotten one over the old foe in the clash that mattered most.
“This was the tightest of our title wins in this competition and we knew it probably would be because all the derbies have been very close this year,” he said.
“We were expecting Waitakere to come at us because a place at the FIFA Club World Cup was on the line – we knew they would throw everything at us and even the ‘keeper was going forward at the end. But we defended very well and the effort from the boys was fantastic,” he added.
“I was pleased with the belief of the players as well, having lost a few times to Waitakere this season it was impressive that they were able to come back and win a game like this. We’ll start to think about the World Cup next week but for now we just want to enjoy this moment.”
The foundations for Auckland’s historic victory – which took place in front of a vocal sell-out crowd of 3,000 – were laid in the first 20 minutes as the defending champions made it clear they had no intention of losing their grip on the title without a fight.
Tribulietx’s men dominated possession in the early stages and gained the reward their bright start deserved in the 16th minute when Waitakere goalkeeper Danny Robinson could only palm down a shot from Japanese fullback Takuya Iwata and Dickinson was on hand to slot the ball home from close range for his eighth goal of the campaign.
The Waitakere defence barely had time to catch their breath again before they fell further behind on the scoreboard, Feneridis firing a spectacular shot from outside the box past Robinson, whose vision looked to have been impaired by the blinding sun in the far corner of the ground, just a few minutes later.
That left Waitakere with plenty of work to do to keep their quadruple dreams alive and coach Paul Marshall set about doing just that with a tactical switch involving his attacking combination of Roy Krishna, Chad Coombes, Allan Pearce and Ryan De Vries. The change of approach paid immediate dividends as ex-All White Coombes benefitted from a determined piece of play from Krishna to get his side back into the game on 40 minutes.
With a record of four wins from six previous encounters in all competitions against Auckland this season, Marshall would likely have rated Waitakere’s odds of going on to complete the comeback but those chances were dealt a blow just before the hour mark when Myers received his marching orders from referee Peter O’Leary.
Ironically, the sending off appeared to kick start Waitakere into life and the latter stages of the game brought their most dominant periods but, despite enjoying an increase in possession, the New Zealand champions struggled to test Auckland goalkeeper Tamati Williams and could not find the goal that would have forced the winner-takes-all match into extra time.
Marshall felt his team’s sluggish start was the biggest contributing factor to the loss.
“We had a 20-minute period in the first half in which we conceded two very poor goals and unfortunately that cost us the game today,” he said.
“And of course going down to ten men didn’t help – that made it difficult for us to get back into it. But I don’t want to take anything away from Auckland City, I thought they deserved their win. It’s a shame because we’ve had a great season and topped our group but we didn’t start the game well enough.”
In the individual stakes, Ba striker Sanni Issa received both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot as the tournament’s best-performed player and top goalscorer while Waitakere’s Robinson earned the Golden Gloves for being the pick of the net-minders. Solomon Islands club Solomon Warriors received the Fair Play Award for ending the season with the best disciplinary record.
Auckland City will now prepare to face some of the best sides in the world at the FIFA Club World Cup, which is set to take place in Morocco from December 11 to 21.