By Bob Pearce www.asbpremiership.co.nz
AUCKLAND - A year is a long time in New Zealand football - particularly if you're an Auckland City fan.
This time last year City had just defeated Al Ahli in Abu Dhabi to qualify for the quarter-finals of FIFA's Club World Cup. The Aucklanders went on to finish fifth to well-deserved acclaim.
They romped home at the top of the national league table. But then the cheering stopped as they failed to make the finals of the NZ league or the O-League and now they find themselves in an unfamiliar sixth place in the ASB Premiership without a win for four games.
Fans will be hoping for a return to business as it once was when Auckland City host bottom-placed YoungHeart Manawatu at Kiwitea St on Saturday.
The omens are good. All Whites World Cup hero Ivan Vicelich has been cleared to make his first Auckland appearance this season following his transfer from Chinese club Shenzhen Ruby.
And fellow New Zealand representative David Mulligan and the tricky Luis Corrales are available again after injury, though Corrales will be heading home to Costa Rica next week for a holiday.
Striker Daniel Koprivcic is still nursing an injury while Ian Hogg and Alex Feneridis are suspended after receiving red cards in the game against Hawkes Bay a fortnight ago.
Last weekend City earned a 1-1 draw with Tefana in an O-League game in Papeete, Tahiti, putting them top of their section on goal difference.
"It was a tough game for us," said co-coach Ramon Tribulietx. "We gave away a cheap penalty so it was good to come back with a draw.
"We've got two players suspended but we're very confident with the squad and we've got plenty of cover.
"We are playing well but at the end of the day it's about scoring goals and we haven't capitalised on our opportunities."
Manawatu, with only one goal to their credit in the league, also need more firepower up front. But they may have found it this week when they beat Phoenix A 3-0 with goals to Colin Falvey, Adam Cowan and Dale Higham.
Coach Bob Sova believes getting the early lead lifted the spirits of his team and built their confidence. Falvey and Nathan Cooksley are back from suspension, but Nobuyoshi Ishi is missing through business commitments.
A familiar figure for the Kiwitea faithful will be Jason Hayne, who was Auckland City's top scorer last season.
Last time Manawatu came to the Sandringham ground they won 4-1 but that was in a catchup game at the end of the season when Auckland rested many of their regulars. But significantly the two had shared the points earlier in Palmerston North.
Tribulietx is not taking the visitors lightly despite their lowly position in the Premiership.
"They're trying to pay some good football and we saw them against Waikato where they were unfortunate. We're both chasing points so it should be a good game."
All Whites World Cup hero Ivan VICELICH has been cleared to make his first Auckland appearance this season following his transfer from Chinese club Shenzhen Ruby. Rory KELLY and former Glasgow Rangers trainee Andrew MILNE have been added to the squad
Nathan COOKSLEY and Colin FALVEY return from suspension, although both played in Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over Phoenix ‘A’
Ian HOGG and Adam FENERIDIS are both suspended after red cards received a fortnight ago against Hawke’s Bay United. Sam CAMPBELL and Daniel KOPRIVCIC (still nursing an injury) are omitted.
Nobuyoshi ISHI is absent due to business commitments. Greg O’CONNOR, Graham CRAVEN and Matt KENNEDY are still long term injury absentees.
Ivan VICELICH appears for Auckland City for the first time since the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.
Manawatu’s Jason HAYNE was Auckland City’s top scorer last season and returns to Kiwitea Street for the first time since the off-season move.
Last season marked the first time Auckland City failed to beat YoungHeart Manawatu in the ASB Premiership. The hosts lost 1-4 at home and drew 1-1 away in the clubs' two matches. Prior to that, Auckland City had enjoyed an 8 match unbeaten run over the visitors that began in 2006-07 season. Auckland City's all-time leading goalscorer in matches against Manawatu is former South African marksman Keryn Jordan with ten goals.
YoungHeart Manawatu defeated Auckland City by 4-1 last season, a result that marks the Palmerstonians biggest ever victory over their Super City rivals.
ASB Premiership - Week 8
Saturday 11 December, 2010
1- Jacob SPOONLEY (GK)
1- Matt BORREN (GK)
2- Angel BERLANGA
3- Matt SMITH
5- Phil EDINGTON
4- Colin FALVEY
6- Stuart KELLY
5- Josh CHETTLEBURGH
7- James PRITCHETT (C)
7- Jason HAYNE
8- David MULLIGAN
8- Nathan COOKSLEY
10- Luis CORRALES
9- Michael WHITE
12- Patrick GEORGE (GK)
10- Adam COWAN (C)
14- Adam DICKINSON
11- Hamish MacKAY
15- Ivan VICELICH
16- Michael FRASER
16- Takayuki OMI
17- Brook TOZER
17- Adam McGEORGE
18- Dale HIGHAM
19- Daniel MORGAN
19- Ben WILKES (GK)
22- Andrew MILNE
20- Willie HODGE
23- Adam THOMAS
21- Jared BLOOR
25- Jono STEEL