Six-times champions Auckland City have bounced back from a shock opening defeat to dispose of title holders Team Wellington in the New Zealand Stirling Sports Premiership on Sunday.
It was two of the competition’s star names that came to the fore for their respective teams, a double from classy Portuguese striker Joao Moreira inspiring City to their success while Wellington Phoenix legend Paul Ifill slotted home a late penalty on debut for Tasman United to earn his side a historic first ever point.
Having had their reputation as one of the country’s benchmark sides undermined by Waitakere last weekend, Auckland were keen to prove any thoughts of them being a spent force were premature and did exactly that with a comprehensive defeat of the reigning champions at Kiwitea Street.
Emiliano Tade got the ball rolling just after the half hour when he tucked away a Ryan De Vries cross at the far post and it seemed Auckland would only be a goal to the good as the half drew to an end. But Moreira had other ideas and extended the hosts’ advantage with an exquisite piece of skill, flicking a pass up with the outside of his right boot before volleying into the bottom corner from just outside the box.
He then turned provider in the 58th minute, showing great vision to pick out De Vries with an inch-perfect lofted pass which the winger controlled before calmly finishing past Scott Basalaj in the Wellington goal. At 3-0 down, the men from the capital now needed to produce something special to take anything from the match and were not able to pull a rabbit out of the hat, the only other goal instead being scored by Auckland.
The ever-dangerous De Vries was brought down in the area on 76 minutes and Moreira made no mistake from the spot to complete his brace and wrap up a highly-satisfying afternoon for Auckland.
“This is Auckland City, this is our style and this is what we can do, what we are capable of, and perhaps even more,” said goalscorer Tade.
“Last week was not the real Auckland City. When you score four goals you can say everyone played well, especially the strikers or whoever scores. Joao was good, he was a key for us with a penalty and his assists.”
While the outcome was hardly what he would have wanted, Wellington coach José Figueira was not downbeat about the performance.
“I thought we were well in the game for very large periods and of course we’re disappointed with the result but, given it was our first hit out, we’re happy with the direction that we’re going in,” he said.
“If we’d been able to go in at half time just the one goal behind then things might have been different but a couple of our mistakes were punished and the positive is that they’re certainly things we can iron out.”
There were also four goals down in Christchurch but these were shared evenly between the teams as Tasman couldn’t quite follow the exploits of fellow debutants Eastern Suburbs and Hamilton Wanderers – who both earned their first win on Saturday – but picked up a point nonetheless.
In a contest affected by the strong gusts blowing across English Park, Canterbury took the lead through former New Zealand U-20 international Andre de Jong on 41 minutes but the visitors hit back almost immediately when Alex Ridsdale let fly from 25 yards and found the net via a deflection. It was the first goal the new entity had ever scored in a competition match and it was fitting that it should come from the boot of a Nelson local in Ridsdale.
The Dragons got their noses back in front in the 66th minute when some fancy footwork from Matthew Wiesenfarth gave former All White Aaron Clapham the chance to convert from the spot and he did so with trademark aplomb. With the clock ticking towards the final whistle, Canterbury must have been confident of hanging on to their lead against a debutant team at home but another penalty stamped out those hopes.
There were just ten minutes left and plenty of pressure on his shoulders as Ifill stepped up to the mark but he used all his experience to neatly find the net and get Tasman underway on the league table.
“I think it was a fair result in the end,” Ifill said.
“I thought we played very well in the first half and I’m glad we got the goal back because I would have been disappointed if we’d gone in behind. Going 2-1 down was tough but I thought we showed great character to get ourselves back in the game. To come to a place like this and get a point first up is pretty good.”
Canterbury coach Willy Gerdsen didn’t share Ifill’s view that a draw was the most fitting outcome and felt his side had done enough to win it.
“Overall, I think we created much more chances – we had one cleared off the line and hit the post twice,” he said.
“So I think it’s a lucky point for Tasman and with a bit of better finishing we deserved to win.”
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football