Auckland City focused on reclaiming title

Former All White Cameron Howieson is congratulated after scoring on debut for Auckland City against Southern United. Photo: David Joseph / www.phototek.co.nz

Auckland City FC coach Ramon Tribulietx says his team does not need reminding of what it felt like to go down to Team Wellington in last year’s final, but that loss has not been a talking point ahead of the Stirling Sports Premiership grand final this Sunday in Auckland.

The defending champions made history last year when they became the first team from out of Auckland – Auckland City (6) and Waitakere United (5) had won the previous 11 titles – to win the coveted title in the modern era.

Team Wellington famously came from behind to win the grand final 4-2 in extra time and are flying to Auckland full of confidence after a fine season under head coach Jose Figueira.

But Auckland City head coach Ramon Tribulietx says that loss has played little part in motivating his team this week. They are focused on being at their best for Sunday.

“It is something that we remember but it doesn’t affect our mentality for this match,” said Tribulietx.  “We are looking at the game as a final. These finals are always very tight no matter who you are playing against because there is a lot on the game and a lot of emotion. We are trying to prepare as well as we can for that.”

Tribulietx pointed out that Auckland City FC played Team Wellington soon after in the Oceania Champions League Final and defeated them 3-0 to book their place in the FIFA Club World Cup.

“That showed that we had learned our lesson. [The Premiership Final] was a game that I don’t think we entered into in the right mind-set. We all understood that and this time around we want to be better.”

Listen to audio from an interview with Auckland City head coach Ramon Tribulietx ahead of the Stirling Sports Premiership Final

The Navy Blues, with six titles since the Premiership was created in 2004, have been the dominant team in the National League. Tribulietx said losing the title underlined how much it means to the club.

“After losing the final last year it means a lot. It is a one-off game for us. This is like a cup final. These games are always very intense, the players are very passionate about these games and love to play in them. They help build up the game in this country so it is great to be part of it. Hopefully people turn up, it is always a great occasion.”

The teams had very different paths to the final. In semi-final one, Auckland City edged Hawke’s Bay United 1-0 at Kiwitea St thanks to a superb goal from Micah Lea’alafa, while Team Wellington and Waitakere United played out a 6-6 thriller in extra time at David Farrington Park before the hosts won on a penalty shootout.

The Navy Blues edged the champions for the minor premiership title on the two clubs head-to-head record after 3-1 and 4-0 victories during the regular season, but Tribulietx said those results will count for little at QBE Stadium on Sunday.

“Team Wellington – I am pretty sure they are going to put out a 150 percent performance,” he said.   “We understand the situation and we will be up for the battle.  We know what to expect with Team Wellington we have played them many times in the last few years so I think it is more around the mental side and understanding how we want to play, especially with the ball. We are a team that likes to have more possession than the other team and that will be the goal for the final on Sunday.”

Tribulietx is well aware of the attacking threat of Team Wellington. Striker Tom Jackson, who won the Golden Boot, and Ben Harris was joint runner-up on the Golden Boot standings, so finding the back of the net has not been a problem for the defending champions.

Tom Jackson celebrates one of his three goals for Team Wellington against Tasman United. Photo: Raghavan Venugopal / www.photosport.nz

Tom Jackson celebrates one of his three goals for Team Wellington against Tasman United. Photo: Raghavan Venugopal / www.photosport.nz

“They are both very good players who live in the box and they really benefit when they have space in the box. With the way the game is played in this country and the games become up and down and these guys are very good in those situations,” he said.

“We need to understand not how to contain those two individuals but rather collectively set up the right scenario for us, especially with the ball. We need to make sure we have a lot of possession and we prevent their counter-attacks which is when they score most of their goals. They are two very good players and we are aware of that. They have a very good football team and they present a very good challenge for us.”

The Stirling Sports Premiership Grand Final kicks off at 4:35pm at QBE Stadium on Sunday 2 April and is live on SKY Sport.

Auckland City FC (from): 1. Enaut Goni, 2. Marko Dordevic, 4. Mario Bilen, 5. Angel Berlanga, 6. Cameron Howieson, 7. Reid Drake, 8. Albert Riera, 9. Darren White, 10. Ryan De Vries, 13. Alfie Rogers, 14. Clayton Lewis, 17. Joao Moreira, 18. Danyon Drake, 20. Emiliano Tade, 21. Harrison Moss-Edge, 22. Abdulla Alkalisy, 25. Fabrizio Tavano, Mario Ilich, Head Coach: Ramon Tribulietx

 Team Wellington (from): 1. Scott Basalaj, 2. Justin Gulley, 5. William Robertson, 6. Taylor Schrijvers, 7. Leonardo Villa, 9. Tom Jackson, 10. Nathanael Hailemariam, 11. Mario Barcia, 12. Andrew Bevin, 14. Billy Scott, 15. Joel Stevens, 16. Ben Harris, 17. Sam Blackburn, 18. Nicholas Zambrano, 19. Josh Margetts, 21. Niko Kirwan, 22. James McPeake, Head Coach: Jose Figueira

 

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