The Oceania representatives at the FIFA Club World Cup have prepared for the tournament in an ideal manner after Auckland City increased their lead at the top of the ISPS Handa Premiership with a comprehensive victory over Hawke’s Bay United. Canterbury United Dragons and Waitakere United both also posted vital wins as they look to climb the ladder while Tasman United, Eastern Suburbs, Southern United and the Wellington Phoenix Reserves all had to settle for a point.
In their last domestic match before heading to Abu Dhabi, Auckland put on a scintillating second-half showing to humble the Bay, who had been beaten only once prior to their trip to Kiwitea Street. After Emiliano Tade had given the Navy Blues an early lead, four more strikes arrived in the second spell as the Argentine completed his double from the spot and Ryan De Vries also helped himself to a brace before Dan Morgan wrapped up the scoring.
“The last domestic game before a Club World Cup is always a difficult one to play for obvious reasons but we were focused on the job,” Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx said.
“The Bay are a difficult team but we understood the way to penetrate their two blocks of four and how they want us to play. We had a lot of chances and the combination play was also very good. We made good decisions on the ball and we’re very happy with the way we understood what was required.”
Despite picking the ball out of his net five times, Hawke’s Bay goalkeeper Ruben Parker pulled off several fine saves but that counted for little as his side could not make the most of the limited possession they received.
“We didn’t have much of the ball and then when we did turn over possession we weren’t clinical or effective with it,” he said. “Auckland took hold of the game early on and we struggled to get into a competitive game with them.”
The win gave Auckland daylight at the sharp end of the table with defending champions Team Wellington not faring well on their trip north, suffering a 2-1 defeat to a Waitakere United side desperate for the points. Waitakere had won only one match going into the clash at Trusts Arena and couldn’t allow that run to continue much longer if they are to repeat their semi-final showing of last season.
Goals from Yuki Ohtsuka and Keegan Linderboom had the hosts 2-0 up at the break and, while Wellington finally hit back through an Eric Molloy penalty in stoppage time, it proved no more than a consolation as they slipped to just their second defeat of the season.
“We were the team making all the running and creating all the chances,” Waitakere coach Chris Milicich said. “I think we frustrated them and broke up their fluidity and momentum. It was by far the best we’ve played all season and everyone did what they were asked.”
Wellington were without a pair of key players in Tom Jackson and Cole Peverley and coach Jose Figueira was pleased with how his side responded to Waitakere’s early onslaught.
“We started the game on the back foot and credit to Waitakere because they got in our faces,” he said. “But I thought in the second half we showed really big personality and could’ve equalised but, in saying that, Waitakere still had one or two chances on the break. I said to the boys at the end that if we keeping show that grit and determination that will stand us in good stead.”
The only other team to win was Canterbury United, who appear to have recovered from their sluggish start to the season after notching a second victory on the trot. With new signing Francis de Vries going straight into the starting line-up, the Dragons earned a 3-0 success over winless Hamilton Wanderers in Christchurch thanks a double from James Pendrigh – who has now scored three goals in his two games – and a late strike from Stephen Hoyle.
“I was happy with the way we started, we created a lot of chances in the first 25 minutes,” Canterbury coach Willy Gerdsen said. “James put one away but then we had a spell in the last 20 minutes of the first half where we got a bit sloppy and lost our concentration. But in the second half I think we were the deserved winners and we’re happy with the result.”
Hamilton counterpart Ricki Herbert felt the contest was closer than the scoreline suggested but that his side were again made to pay for their individual errors.
“It’s probably been a story of the first six games for us that we’re providing opportunities more than getting punished by good football from an opposition team,” he said. “With the capability of some of the players in this league, they’re going to punish you. You don’t tend to get a lot of luck when you’re down there and we just need to be strong and resilient and try to move forward as much as we can.”
The other matches both finished 2-2 as Southern added further to their growing reputation as comeback kings against the Phoenix second string at Westpac Stadium while Tasman and Eastern Suburbs also shared the spoils.
The Phoenix looked well on course for their first win of the campaign when goals early in each half to Alex Rufer and James McGarry – the first coming from the penalty spot – gave them a 2-0 lead going into the last 20 minutes. But Irishman Garbhan Coughlan then struck twice as Southern extended their unbeaten run to four games. The Phoenix cause was not helped by the dismissal of Ryan Lowry in the 84th minute for a late lunge.
There was also plenty of drama in Nelson as Reese Cox and Kieran Smith swapped early goals before Derek Tieku put Suburbs back in front just before the break. Veteran Paul Ifill then rose off the bench to show he still has a touch of his former class, finishing off a run from Tinashe Marowa to score the equaliser with just 13 minutes left on the clock and maintain Tasman’s unbeaten record at home.
It came at a cost though with the 38-year-old pulling his hamstring and expected to be out for two to three weeks. Coach Davor Tavich was disappointed to have lost the services of his talisman but was happy to take a draw after trailing twice.
“At the end we possibly could have won it but I’m quite happy with the way the team responded and worked really hard,” he said.
“Overall, I was pleased with the result. I have to emphasise that we have a very strong squad – anybody that comes on can make a positive difference for us and today that was the case again.”
For the ISPS Handa Premiership table please click here
ISPS Handa Premiership Round Six Results
Tasman United 2 (Kieran Smith 21’, Paul Ifill 77’)
Eastern Suburbs 2 (Reese Cox 15’, Derek Tieku 43’)
Auckland City 5 (Emiliano Tade 13’, 64’ pen, Ryan De Vries 53’, 71’, Dan Morgan 75’)
Hawke’s Bay United 0
Wellington Phoenix Reserves 2 (Alex Rufer pen 9’, James McGarry 46’)
Southern United 2 (Garbhan Coughlan 72’, 82’)
Canterbury United Dragons 3 (James Pendrigh 25’, 49’, Stephen Hoyle 80’)
Hamilton Wanderers 0
Waitakere United 2 (Yuki Ohtsuka 17’, Keegan Linderboom 45’)
Team Wellington 1 (Eric Molloy pen 90’ + 3’)