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NZFC - Round 1
FMG Stadium - Sunday, November 4, 2007
Gouzalo Nieres 49 pen
Bryan Little 27, 55, 85
Halftime: 0-1 Referee: Jamie Cross (Wellington) Crowd: 250
AUCKLAND – Bryan Little earned a whole lot of praise after his hat-trick ensured Auckland City a flying start to their NZFC title defence at YoungHeart Manawatu on Sunday.
The Scottish midfielder gave Auckland a 27th minute lead at FMG Stadium in Palmerston North before cancelling out Gouzalo Nieres’s penalty spot equaliser for Manawatu with a stunning 55th minute free-kick and a clinical 85th minute finish.
Nieres went from hero to villain after his 49th minute penalty with the Uruguayan striker seeing red for a second booking to leave Manawatu with 10-men for the final seven minutes.
Auckland wasted little time capitalising on their numerical advantage and killing off the contest when Little waltz into the box and rounded Manawatu goalkeeper Michael Utting to seal the first hat-trick of the season and fire Auckland to the top of the table.
Manawatu coach Shane Rufer was disappointed with the “individual error” that led to Little’s first goal but had nothing but praise for the left-sided midfielder afterwards.
“The first goal was an error but his second was just a wonderful free-kick into the top corner. There’s not many people, particularly in this part of the world, that can score goals like that,” Rufer said of Little.
“Then he’s had a one-on-one with the keeper, rounded him and scored. So he’s had three chances and scored three goals…you can’t knock that.”
Auckland coach Colin Tuaa was understandably delighted with Little performance as City’s backed up their 6-0 O-League thrashing of AS Manu Ura the previous weekend.
“Bryan had a tremendous game…he scored three lovely goals” Tuaa said.
“Obviously he had the three goals but his general play down the left was great as well. He created a lot for us today…his crossing was always dangerous.”
The foundation for Auckland’s win came from the back where right back James Pritchett was the standout among a solid defensive quartet, while South Korean ‘Cannon Shooter’ Ki-Hyung Lee was even more influential in central midfield than he had been in Auckland’s O-League win.
“Utting made three or four good saves to keep them in it but we had most of the possession and created most of the chances so it was just a matter of being patient and taking the chances when they came along,” Tuaa said.
“It was a good effort by all the players and the most pleasing thing is we built on our effort in the O-League.”
Utting and captain Ian Robinson were Manawatu’s best on a day which looked like it might go the home side’s way when Nieres was chopped down in the box just after halftime.
Manawatu’s Fijian international Osea Vakatalesau took the resulting spot kick which was saved by Tamati Williams only for Wellington referee Jamie Cross to judge that the Auckland’s goalkeeper had moved too early.
Nieres took matters in his own hands and made no mistake from the spot with the re-taken penalty shoot but his luck – and Manawatu’s – ran out seven minutes from time when Cross flashed the first round’s only red card.
Rufer was not overly disappointed afterwards.
“I thought it was a very good game with a lot of tempo between two of the best teams in New Zealand football,” he said.
“Auckland again showed why they’ve been champions three times and deservedly so. They’ve got quality everywhere and are dangerous all over the park.
“But I was quite happy with our performance taking into consideration we’ve only had our foreign players in training for a week. We can’t use this as an excuse but there is always an adjustment period…just must just focus on the next game.”
Auckland host fellow first round winners Hawke’s Bay United in the opening match of the second round on Saturday while Manawatu will look to rebound when they visit Team Wellington – 2-1 victors at Waitakere United in the first round – next Sunday.
NZFC - Round 1
November 4, 2007
3. Pablo Yackson
5. Ben Sigmund (Captain)
5. Trent Watson (off 10)
6. Ki-Hyung Lee
7. Gouzalo Neires
7. James Pritchett
9. Osea Vakatalesau
8. Chad Coombes (off 82)
11. Ian Sandbrook
9. Paul Urlovic (off 67)
15. Prince Quansah (off 79)
10. Grant Young (off 71)
16. Ian Robinson (Captain)
12. Tamati Williams (GK)
19. Michael Utting (GK)
15. Jeff Campbell
20. Adam Cowan
17. Bryan Little
21. Tim Richardson
20. Greg Uhlmann
23. Scott Robson
25. Rupesh Puna
1. Andrew Bailey (GK)
1. Ross Nicholson (GK)
8. Nathan Cooksley (on 10)
2. Joel Mathews (on 82)
10. Gustavo Saralegui (on 79)
11. Luis Del Monte (on 71)
14. Daniel Aliaga
16. George Suri
17. Dominic Rowe (on 79)
23. Eliezer Anello (on 67)
Welcome to a wet FMG Stadium for this season opener between YoungHeart Manawatu and defending champions Auckland City. It has been raining all day in Palmerston North and the players will have to contend with a slight westerly wind.
- We're underway. Manawatu have the slight breeze behind their backs but it won't come into play greatly.
- Yellow card - Manawatu skipper Ian Robinson has been booked by referee Jamie Cross after an over-aggressive tackle.
Manawatu sub - An injured Watson leaves the field, replaced by Cooksley.
- It's been a tough midfield battle so far with few scoring opportunties.
- GOAL! 0-1 Bryan Little has given Auckland the lead with a shot from inside the area. A great start for the defending champions.
- Yellow card - Manawatu's Uruguayan import Pablo Yackson has gone in Cross' little black book for a tackle on Grant Young.
- Yellow card - Scott Robson has followed his team-mate into that little black book after a challenge on goal scorer Little.
- Halftime - Auckland go to the break 1-0 up. It's been a tough midfield battle with Auckland showing the greater attacking intent only to be held at bay by some aggressive Manawatu defence. Three good saves from Michael Utting have also kept Manawatu in the contest.
We're udnerway in the second half. Can Manawatu fight back?
GOAL! 1-1 Drama at FMG Stadium where Uruguayan Gouzalo Nieres has scored from the penalty spot after being chopped down in the box. Fijian striker Osea Vakatalesau initially missed the penalty but referee Cross ordered a re-take as Auckland keeper Tamati Williams moved too early.
- Yellow card - Nieres has followed up his goal with a booking for an elbow on an unidentified Auckland player.
- GOAL! 1-2 Bryan Little has his second to take Auckland back into the lead after lifted a freekick fromt he right hand edge of the box over Mtu's wall and past Utting.
- Auckland Sub - Urlovic off, Anello on.
- Auckland Sub - Young off - De Monte on
- Manawatu Sub - Cooksley off, Saralegui on. Quansah off, Rowe on.
- Auckland sub - Coombes ff, Joel Matthews on.
RED CARD! Manawatu are down to 10 after Gouzalo Nieres went from hero to villian after seeing red for his second booking.
- GOAL! 1-3 It's a hat-trick for Bryan Little after the Scotsman waltz into the box and shot past Utting.
- Auckland sub - Young off, Mathews on.
- Yellow card - Vakatalesau is booked for pushing.
It's all over at FMG Stadium with Auckland City making a great start to their title defence thanks to Bryan Little's hat-trick.
Full report and pictures pending.