Reigning OFC Champions League holders Auckland City FC have won the Nike Lunar New Year Cup after beating hosts Kitchee SC 1-0 in the final at Hong Kong Stadium on Tuesday night.
The match-winning goal came in the 22nd minute when Auckland City’s Emiliano Tade lined up for his second goal of the competition but fired across the face of the goal. New Zealand All White Clayton Lewis slid in to the back post at full stretch to guide the stray ball past Kitchee goalkeeper Jianqiao Gou and into goal.
Coach Ramon Tribulietx was proud that a club as small as Auckland City could dominate the far larger clubs in the competition.
“I said it after the last game but the other teams don’t understand the difference between them and us,” he said.
“We’re very little compared to them. I don’t want to talk about money but if you saw some of the contracts their players are on you’d be amazed while we had Darren White and our goalkeeper coach already back in Auckland because they had to work today,” he added.
It was, at times, a combative affair and required the Navy Blues to soak up large periods of pressure from the home side – determined to win the trophy in front of their own fans – before Auckland would patiently work their way forward again.
Lewis almost grabbed a second just before halftime but his lob over the goalkeeper just bounced past the outside of the post.
“There were many things to be proud about,” Tribulietx said.
“I think we dominated the first 60 minutes of the game especially in the first half when we were very good with the ball.
“We went one nil up and Clayton Lewis had a very good chance in front of the keeper. It could’ve been two nil at halftime.”
In the second half, Kitchee pushed forward in waves but City’s defence looked comfortable enough to limit the home side to very few clear chances although there were signs of fatigue starting to show.
“Things can change at this level when you start to tire. They brought on six subs on who were of the same calibre as the players they replaced and as we tired we got our pressure a little late,” Tribulietx said.
“Out wide they were pushing their wingbacks on to make it a five up front. It was difficult to defend but they didn’t really have any clear chances.”
Auckland City FC won’t have long to celebrate as they return home to resume domestic duties.
Story courtesy of Auckland City FC