Auckland City dominated the first half of an intense pre-season friendly at a jam-packed Kiwitea Street with three superb saves by Phoenix keeper Jacob Spoonley denying his former team-mates the lead.
Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has endured an at times disjointed pre-season campaign with players missing on international duty or injured but conceded Auckland City were worthy of their result.
“I wanted a really tough, hard, game and that’s what Auckland City gave us. In the second half I strengthened our midfield with Manny Muscat and our skipper Andrew Durante also came on.
“When Muscat came on we really dominated the opposition particularly in the middle of the park. But I also had to play a couple of youngsters – Joel Stevens, who is 18, Alex Rufer, 17, and Tyler Boyd hasn’t played in six months. But we didn’t really look like scoring and Auckland City really deserved to win the match,” Merrick said.
Wellington Phoenix dominated the second half but created few chances, clearly missing the creative nucleus of Carlos Hernandes, Kenny Cunningham and Paul Ifill. By contrast, Auckland City created a spate of chances.
First Adam Dickinson opened up Wellington Phoenix and firing in a low cross a yard wide of Alex Feneridis with Glen Moss isolated. Then Feneridis charged away for a one on one with Moss before being reeled in by Durante and Ben Sigmund.
Darren White and Roy Krishna – making his non-competitive home debut for Auckland – caused the Phoenix defensive headaches on both flanks with Reece Caira and Michael Boxall put under constant pressure.
Then came the goal. Takuya Iwata swung a cross in from the left which the Phoenix cleared only for Burfoot to lash home a rasping effort from 25 metres out on the angle into the back of the net with six minutes left.
Burfoot, signed from Northern League club Western Springs, fits in well at Auckland City according to Tribulietx.
“I think Sam fits perfectly our style of play he’s young but physically a bit immature. But given time you can see Sam could be a very good player for this club,” he said.
The victory is a welcome boost for Auckland City FC and the second time the Sandringham-based club has defeated A-League opposition, having downed Central Coast Mariners 3-1 two seasons ago.
Coach Ramon Tribulietx said it was important to put the result in perspective.
“We’ve just started pre-season, we’re working on our style, our play, our system. We did well in patches, in the second half not as good.
“We were playing a very good side, overall the way we defended was good as we needed to defend really deep. I’m happy.”
Tribulietx’s opposite number, Ernie Merrick pointed out some of the resources he was missing.
“We showed we could play, we kept possession for long spells, but we didn’t have our firepower in Carlos Hernandes, Kenny Cunningham and Paul Ifill. When we have them together we’ll have a formidable squad.
“Pre-season has been very thorough, we’ve physically and technically worked very hard on the boys, strategically they get the system of play we’re aiming for.
“The frustration has been not getting all these players on the park at one time. This was our ninth pre-season game we’ve only lost two, the other was the Wanderers result over in Sydney,” he said.
Auckland City’s next pre-season friendly is less glamourous as they take on New Zealand U-17 at Kiwitea Street on October 6.
The Wellington Phoenix next match is a Hyundai A-League season opener with Brisbane Roar at Westpac Trust Stadium on October 13.
Auckland City FC 1 (Sam BURFOOT 84′)
Wellington Phoenix 0
Halftime: 0-0.
Attendance: 2,700.