Auckland City FC have clinched a seventh straight OFC Champions League title in Wellington on Sunday afternoon with a 2-0 second leg win sealing a 5-0 aggregate victory and booking a ticket to the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017.
The victory – Auckland’s ninth continental crown overall – was confirmed with second half goals to Ryan De Vries and Emilano Tade, the latter a superb long range strike, but was equally built on a resolute defence that only conceded one goal in this season’s Champions League.
With Wellington needing a big victory on home soil to have any chance of hauling in Auckland’s first leg lead, the Navy Blues defended intelligently to keep a potent Wellington attack under wraps and never allowed themselves to get drawn into a slugfest or trying to rest on their first leg advantage.
“The mindset was always going to be crucial,” said Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx.
“We couldn’t sit back and wait because we knew Wellington are a team capable of scoring if you do that. We had to be aggressive and play to win.
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“We were able to slow down the game when we needed to and while we didn’t always play the style of possession-based game we’re known for we were equally able to take the opportunities they gave us when they switched from a back three to a back four.”
A goal from a 63rd minute counter attack, capped off by Ryan de Vries, edged the Navy Blues closer to the title which was sealed when Emiliano Tade curled a first-time effort from the knuckle of the penalty area into the top far corner with 15 minutes remaining.
Tribulietx, who has been at the helm for all the confederation titles in the current run, praised his side’s ability to go up a gear in the Champions League final.
“We all understand how important it is to play in the FIFA Club World Cup. The team changes from year to year and it gets harder each year but when it comes down to it these games the boys switch on and do the job.
“We knew Wellington would throw everything at us. They’re very physical and even on a quiet day they can still score from a set piece but we defended those well and absorbed the physicality.”
The Navy Blues also swept the individual awards with João Moreira’s six goals earning the golden boot, Eñaut Zubikarai claiming the golden gloves as best goalkeeper and skipper Angel Berlanga winning the golden ball for the competition’s best player.
The 2017 FIFA Club World Cup runs from 6- 16 December with Auckland City joining CONCACAF champions Pachuca from Mexico as the only confirmed teams to date.