Auckland City FC have defeated South Korea’s K League Classic champions FC Seoul 1-0 in the opening match of the Nike Lunar New Year Cup in Hong Kong on Saturday.
Argentinian forward Emiliano Tade put the icing on Auckland’s fine first half performance with the only goal of the game at the end of a move he started himself.
Winning the ball in the centre circle, Tade found Ryan De Vries cutting in on his right, who returned the favour with a pass that took out Yoo Hyun leaving his teammate with an easy finish.
Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx was proud of his side dominating possession and earning a positive result against a professional football team.
“It’s a fantastic result,” he said.
“We’re playing the best team in Korea who just won the 2016 K-League. They’re a full time professional team, with a big stadium and big facilities and some guys from Auckland City just a very small club in New Zealand has not only managed to compete but also win the game,” he added.
As to be expected of a team that has been to two AFC Champions League finals in recent years, FC Seoul ratcheted up their intensity after the break with former Monaco and Arsenal forward Park Chu Young adding plenty of spark when he replaced Montenegrin international Dejan Domjanovic.
The Navy Blues defence held firm, and while they benefitted from a pair of brilliant saves from goalkeeper Enaut Zubikarai, it was far from one way traffic with only the woodwork preventing Tade from doubling the lead.
“We started well in the second half but maybe it evened up a bit,” Tribulietx said.
“They pushed higher but we managed to break through the pressure a few times. After the first 25 minutes we began to tire and that’s when we gave the initiative to them.”
“That’s when you have to be able to suffer, shut the whole thing down and hope you are defensively organised and don’t give them any chances and can catch them on a counter which we almost did. “
Tribulietx was reluctant to rank the result among the proud list of professional clubs Auckland City has beaten but was clear the victory’s significance should not be undervalued.
“It’s another very professional performance from a very small club. These people here don’t understand how big the difference is. After so many Club World Cups and competitive performances I think people think we are a lot bigger than we are,” he said.
“If they came to New Zealand and saw our club which is driven by a lot of volunteers making a big effort, they’d be surprised to see us play well against clubs that are 30, 40 times bigger than ours. We’re very proud.”
The celebrations were dampened somewhat by an injury to captain Angel Berlanga taken to hospital for x-rays on a facial injury sustained late in the match.
Auckland City will now play Kitchee SC in Tuesday’s final of the invitational tournament after the host club beat Thai champions SCG Muangthong United 6-5 on penalties after the scores were locked at 1-1 after 90 minutes.
The final will kick off at 5.30pm local time (10pm NZDT).
Story courtesy of Auckland City FC