In their third-consecutive OFC Champions League final play-off, New Zealand clubs Auckland City and Team Wellington will meet at Kiwitea Street in Auckland this Sunday for the first of two matches, both hopeful of claiming a spot at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017.
With varying results between the two teams throughout their season in the 2016-2017 New Zealand Premiership, Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx believes Team Wellington’s line-up is stronger than ever this year, and expects both clashes will be neck-and-neck.
“The main difference this year compared to last year is that they’re looking to keep the ball a little bit longer, and they look to pass a bit more than they used to, but they’re still a very direct team that benefits a lot from counter-attacking football,” he said.
“They’re very dangerous on set pieces as well, that’s how we conceded in the national league final. They’ve got very good players and they’re well-organised out of possession. When they had to drop deep – like in the second half of that final – they defended well.”
“We have to be prepared for a very tough game. That’s what we’re expecting. It will be a very tough final. There’s a big reward at stake and obviously both teams understand that.”
After dominating AS Magenta 7-1 in the second leg of their semi-final two weeks ago, Team Wellington are hungry for another victory, but coach Jose Figueira is preparing for a tough first leg at the six-time consecutive champions’ home ground.
“Auckland City have got a tremendous record at Kiwitea Street,” he said.
“They’ve got good support behind them, they’ve got many players that have played in many finals, and many other things swinging in their favour, especially at home, but we’ve shown – at home and on the road – that we can score goals.
“We’re a team that likes to attack and get on the front foot so we’ll be aiming to try and do the same thing.”
Auckland City FC vs. Team Wellington
Auckland, New Zealand
Sunday 30 April
Auckland City FC
Vital Statistics: Sunday’s match will be Auckland City’s seventh-consecutive appearance in the OFC Champions League final.
The Players: Team Wellington’s attacking ability will be put to the true test when they try get the ball past Auckland City goalkeeper Enaut Zubikarai. The talented goalkeeper has only let one ball past him in the entire competition. When he isn’t pulling off back-to-back impressive saves, Zubikarai acts as a fifth member of the backline, switching the ball and directing play.
Coach Quote: “We understand that it’s going to be a very tough final. I think Team Wellington have been getting better this year. It will be a very good challenge to play them again.”
Auckland City FC: 1. Enaut ZUBIKARAI (GK), 2. Harshae RANIGA, 3. Takuya IWATA, 4. Mario BILEN, 5. Angel BERLANGA, 6. Cam HOWIESON, 7. Reid DRAKE, 8. Albert RIERA, 9. Darren WHITE, 10. Ryan DE VRIES, 11. Fabrizio TAVANO, 13. Alfie ROGERS. 14. Clayton LEWIS, 15. Mario ILICH, 16. Daewook KIM, 17, Joao MOREIRA, 18. Danyon DRAKE (GK), 19. Micah LEA’ALAFA, 20. Emiliano TADE, 21. Harry EDGE, 22. Abdullah AL-KALISY, 23. Marko DORDEVIC, 24. Jacob SPOONLEY (GK).
Coach: Ramon TRIBULIETX (ESP)
Team Wellington [NZL]
Vital Statistics: Team Wellington’s last clash against Auckland City was in the final of the 2016-2017 New Zealand Premiership. Although Auckland City had dominated the domestic league throughout the season, beating Team Wellington 4-0 and 3-1, Team Wellington took home the title for a second year in a row after beating Auckland City 2-1.
The Players: Captain Bill Robertson dominated in set pieces during Team Wellington’s semi-final matches against AS Magenta. Robertson was first get his head to the ball on every corner, and was unfortunate to only find the net once in their 7-1 win against the New Caledonian club. Standing at centre back, Robertson coordinates well with goalkeeper Scott Basalaj to keep the opposition out of the Team Wellington penalty box.
Coach Quote: “It’s going to be tough playing them over two games instead of just the one like last year but we showed at the final of our domestic league that we can perform at those levels and get a result against them. We’ll have to recover, get fresh, and do our homework on them again. We’ve got to put in a monumental effort to turn them over.”
Team Wellington: 1. Scott BASALAJ (GK), 2. Justin GULLEY, 3. Omrie SAOLELE, 4. Guillermo MORETTI, 5. Bill ROBERTSON, 6. Taylor SCHRIJVERS, 7. Leo VILLA, 8. Cole PEVERLEY, 9. Tom JACKSON, 10. Nathanael HAILEMARIAM, 11. Mario BARCIA, 12. Andy BEVIN, 13. Roland BALA, 14. Billy SCOTT, 15. Joel STEVENS, 16. Ben HARRIS, 17. Sam BLACKBURN, 18. Nicolas ZAMBRANO, 19. Joshua MARGETTS, 20. Nicholas EDGINTON, 21. Niko KIRWAN, 23. James McPEAKE (GK)
Coach: Jose FIGUEIRA (ENG)
Viewers can watch the live stream of the final here (excl. New Zealand and Papua New Guinea)
SKY Sport will be providing live coverage of the match for New Zealand viewers on Sky Pop Up 56