Many onlookers had predicted this season’s edition of the Stirling Sports Premiership would be the most open in recent years and that prospect looks increasingly likely after Waitakere United pulled off a shock win over Auckland City in the opening match.
The first full round of the competition does not take place until next weekend but this match-up needed to brought forward to accommodate 2016 OFC Champions League winners Auckland City’s FIFA Club World Cup commitments in December.
Waitakere will be glad at receiving the early opportunity to signal their intent after a stoic display earned their first Super City derby win for the best part of three years.
The visitors had to keep the trademark possession-based style of City at bay for most of the match at Kiwitea Street after taking an early lead when Harrison Nash headed in a well-worked corner routine after just four minutes.
As expected, Auckland dominated the ball from then on as they searched for the equaliser but were denied by a string of outstanding saves from new Waitakere goalkeeper Pirmin Strasser, who arrives in the Stirling Sports Premiership from Austria.
City were also fielding a debutant import custodian in Spaniard Enaut Zubikarai and, despite the dominance of the home side, he was also called into action on several occasions as Waitakere threatened on the counter attack, mainly through Dylan Stansfield.
Another of Waitakere’s new signings, German wide midfielder Stefan Thelen, also caught the eye but it was a real team effort from the Red and Whites, who were set out well by coach Chris Milicich and stood firm under the pressure of Auckland’s regular raids forward.
The hosts’ much-vaunted front three of Ryan De Vries, Joao Moreira and Emiliano Tade were as dangerous as ever but Waitakere were equal to anything they could throw at them.
Milicich was delighted to have finally got one over his club’s great rivals and is hoping the win will mark a return to Waitakere’s former glory days.
“It feels good to win here today,” he said.
“We played our game, they played theirs, and our aim was to counter attack. We let them play and then our counter attack went really well.”
The former New Zealand U-20 coach was not surprised to witness such a spirited performance after deliberately seeking out players with the right attitude.
“One of the key things when we went to recruit players was to find the character of the player. They dig deep, they work hard and they want to win,” he said.
“There is a big difference in this group in that they turn up and want to compete, train hard and do things the right way. They’ve bonded very quickly and we’ve put in a performance like that when we’ve only been together for three weeks.”
Darren White captained Auckland City for the first time and was disappointed not to complement his personal milestone with a positive result.
“It’s always a stinker when you lose a derby, especially against Waitakere,” he said.
“We had most of the possession and created a ton of chances but just couldn’t finish. But, fair play to Waitakere, they scored their goal early because we hadn’t switched on. After that they parked a great bus, to be fair,” he added.
“I hope this is a wake-up call for us because anyone can beat anyone in this league on the day.”
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football