Auckland City claim minor premiership

Auckland City's Joao Moreira is mobbed after scoring from the spot. Stirling Sports Premiership, Round 18, Auckland City FC v Eastern Suburbs, Kiwitea Street, Auckland, Sunday 5th March 2017. Copyright photo: David Joseph / www.photosport.nz

Auckland City have staged a late comeback to secure the minor premiership title of the Stirling Sports Premiership this afternoon at Kiwitea Street in Auckland.

The six-time champions, who were looking to bounce back from their 4-1 loss to Waitakere United last weekend, took the lead over Eastern Suburbs when they were awarded a penalty in the 66th minute.

Joao Moreira broke clear on the counter-attack and Ross Haviland brought him down leaving referee Peter Linney a straightforward decision. Moreira made no mistake with an unstoppable penalty high to Suburbs’ keeper Silvio Rodic’s right to take the lead.

But there was more drama to come as the Lily Whites kept coming and got back on level terms in the final few moments. Derek Tieku, a former Crystal Palace professional, delivered a fine shot which was blocked by Enaut Zubikarai but tapped home by All Whites’ midfielder Moses Dyer in the 88th minute.

Listen to audio from an interview with Eastern  Suburbs’ Tim Payne on the 2-1 loss to Auckland City FC

The Navy Blues were not finished and another All White Clayton Lewis, who has been in sparkling form for his side in 2017, came up with the decisive play in the 90th minute.  Lewis cut the ball back for Emiliano Tade to slam the ball past standout keeper Rodic for the winner to secure the Minor Premiership title and also OFC Champions League qualification.

It was Auckland City’s fourth successive minor premiership title and their eighth overall, meanwhile Suburbs will have a nervous wait to see if they have qualified for the playoffs. For the Lily Whites to make the final four, Hawke’s Bay United must lose to Hamilton Wanderers in Napier next week.

Auckland City assistant coach Ivan Vicelich on securing the minor premiership title

In the Saturday games, Waitakere United were looking to keep their playoff hopes alive when they faced the Wellington Phoenix U-20s at QBE Stadium.

The evenly fought match, which was the curtain-raiser for the Phoenix against the Perth Glory in the A-League, was decided shortly after half time.

Waitakere United midfielder Dan Morgan, who captained Birkenhead United to Chatham Cup glory on the same ground, opened the scoring on a counter-attack in the 54th minute. Morgan was on hand to slot home after a cut back pass from the goal-line.

Waitakere poured forward again and three minutes later put a dangerous ball into the box which was met by the head of Phoenix’s Benjamin Mata who found the back of his own net.

The ‘home team’ rallied and could have got back in the game with a number of chances – Sarpreet Singh hit the crossbar with a powerful free-kick and Logan Rogerson also had a late chance – but they did not convert. Phoenix keeper Lewis Italiano made a fine save in the dying moments and it finished 2-0.

Hawke’s Bay United went into their final two games knowing that six points at Bluewater Stadium in Napier would probably be enough to make the playoffs.

They were put under pressure when their outstanding keeper Joshua Hill made a rare mistake at the back and was punished by Southern United’s Danny Furlong in the eighth minute.

But the home team were quick to respond with some quality football. Saul Halpin levelled the score seven minutes later with a great strike which beat Southern keeper Josh Dijkstra. A scrappy first half finished at 1-1 with everything to play for in the second half.

Listen to audio from an interview with Hawke’s Bay United coach Brett Angell on his team’s 2-1 win over Southern United

With Hawke’s Bay coach Brett Angell back on the sidelines, his team took the advantage midway through the second half. Facundo Barbero latched onto a deflection from the keeper Dijkstra and finished for a 2-1 lead and what could prove a crucial goal for last year’s semi-finalists.

Hawke’s Bay United held on and with the win are in fifth place. If they defeat or draw with Hamilton Wanderers in their final game – as they are equal with Eastern Suburbs on head-to-head and ahead of goal difference – they will make the top four ahead of Lily Whites.

Listen to audio from an interview with Southern United coach Paul O’Reilly on going down 2-1 to HBU

Stirling Sports Premiership Round 17 / 18 Results:
Auckland City 2 (Joao Moreira (pen) 66’, Emiliano Tade 90’) Eastern Suburbs 1 (Moses Dyer 88’) HT 0-0
Wellington Phoenix U-20 0 Waitakere United 2 (Dan Morgan 54’, OG 57’) HT 0-0
Hawke’s Bay United 2 (Saul Halpin 15’, Facundo Barbero 63’) Southern United 1 (Danny Furlong 8’) HT 1-1

Click here for the Stirling Sports Premiership table

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