As if earning their seventh-consecutive regional title wasn’t enough, Auckland City FC also cleaned up in the individual awards during the OFC Champions League and captain Angel Berlanga – who was surprised to be announced the Golden Ball winner– believes every member of the team deserves credit for their spectacular campaign.
“This trophy is not for me only, it’s about the team. By myself I couldn’t have done anything so this is a trophy for the team,” he said.
“I don’t want to take it for myself because I don’t feel like that. For me, the effort the boys put in throughout the entire tournament was so amazing and I’m really proud of them.”
Auckland City dominated the two-legged final against three-time finalists and domestic rivals Team Wellington and Berlanga was pleased to come up against a worthy opponent that forced the Navy Blues to their limits to retain the title.
“I think they tried their best and they put us under pressure a lot of times with set pieces and throw-ins but we managed to stop them from playing their football,” he said.
“I think we did a really good job to stop them.”
Berlanga was impressed with the standard of football throughout the entire competition, but proudly believed his side deserved the title after consistent performances in all seven of their OFC Champions League encounters.
“I think it’s been pretty professional. Throughout the competition we have only conceded one goal,” he said.
“We’ve been really focused the whole competition and I think we competed really well. We all knew how to play each game and we made the most of our opportunities.”
Although the new structure of the competition came with new challenges – such as travelling and adapting to different venues – Berlanga was pleased to be able to prove their ability to perform regardless of location.
“We can’t control where we play and if there’s a change in the competition format you just have to get on with that and play it the way it is. We like the way it is now with two legs because we think it’s fairer.”
With the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017 still seven months away, Berlanga’s focus now is on celebrating Auckland City’s hard work and enjoying downtime before the 2017-2018 New Zealand Premiership season gets underway.
“For now we are going to enjoy the trophy and winning the competition and next season we’ll focus on how we are going to approach the Club World Cup. It’s still far away but we are already excited to be heading back.”