By BobPearce / asbpremiership.co.nz
AUCKLAND - Have Auckland City peaked too soon just as the ASB Premiership and O-League reach their closing stages?
A superficial look at the recent record of the Sandringham-based club would suggest that, after compiling impressive statistics as they rolled to the Premiership minor championship and qualification for the O-League final series, the wheels have wobbled and could perhaps fall off.
They completed their O-League regular season with an 0-1 loss to Amicale in Port Vila, drew 1-1 with Canterbury United in Christchurch in their last Premiership fixture and then lost 0-1 to Team Wellington in the first leg of their Premiership semifinal. Wellington, meanwhile, have won the White Ribbon Cup and lost only one of their last 10 games.
The engineer of Auckland’s success, coach Ramon Tribulietx, retains full confidence in his team.
“I thought we played well in Wellington, though the outcome wasn’t good,” he said.
“We created a lot of chances, hit the post and their goalkeeper made some great saves. They took a freekick very well and Jonny Raj (a former Auckland City player) scored.
“We need to move on and we are confident we can come back. This team has been good all year and , however they play, we should be all right. We must try to dominate and take the game slowly. I think it’s going to be intense and a very long game.
“Wellington’s defence is pretty well organised and they have dangerous players to hit us on the counter. But we must focus on ourselves.”
Auckland suffered a late casualty in Wellington with midfielder Ivan Diaz pulling a calf muscle and dropping out of contention for Sunday.
Wellington coach Matt Calcott has no illusions about the task ahead of his team in the confines of Kiwitea St, where the most enthusiastic fans in the competition have become used to success in the last couple of seasons.
“One goal is not enough,” he said. “We’ve got to go up there and be positive and try to score some away goals.
“There’s no point in being defensive. You get driven deeper and deeper and you give them too much room.”
For the first time for a while Calcott has a full squad to draw on and perhaps a cautionary tale about what happened when they last played at Kiwitea St.
In November Team Wellington made the early running but finally lost 2-4 when Auckland struck back with late goals to former Wellington player Luis Corrales and Spanish striker Manel Exposito.
For those with longer memories, in 2008 when the finals series was shorter Wellington came north and, after the teams had been level 2-2 in regulation time, scored twice in extra time to win 4-2 with the Kiwitea faithful stunned into silence.
Because they finished fourth in the regular season Team Wellington will not get to host the Grand Final even if they prevail on Sunday. That honour would go to either Canterbury or Waitakere.
But the odds must surely favour a return to Kiwitea St if Auckland City can recover the form that has made them the team of the season so far.
The final, re-scheduled to April 29 as part of changes to the league to make room for the OFC U-23 Championships, could yet be postponed a week to May 6 if Auckland City progress to the final. Auckland will contest the first leg of the O-League final against AS Tefana that weekend. OFC had initially agreed to reschedule this fixture but logistics now make this rescheduling unfeasible.
Chad COOMBES, Riki van STEEDEN and James PRITCHETT
Ivan Diaz RUIZ
COOMBES, PRITCHETT and van STEEDEN were part of the City squad that won the 2004-05 ASB Premiership.
Darren CHERITON will make his 65th ASB Premiership career appearance, if selected. He has ten goals.
Auckland City has turned over a semi-final 1st Leg deficit once previously when they fought back from a 3-1 defeat to YoungHeart Manawatu with a 3-0 semi-final 2nd Leg victory at Kiwitea Street back in 2009.
Last week’s 1-0 win over Auckland City was only the fourth time since 2004 that Team Wellington has bettered the navy blues. It was also Team Wellington’s first win over a top four side this season.
ASB Premiership - Semi-Final 2nd Leg,
Sunday 22 April, 2012
1- Jacob SPOONLEY (GK)
1- Phil IMRAY
3- Ian HOGG
2- Tim SCHAEFFERS
4- Riki van STEEDEN
4- Michael EAGAR
5- Angel BERLANGA
5- Johnny RAJ
6- Chad COOMBES
6- Darren CHERITON
7- James PRITCHETT
7- Wiremu PATRICK
8- David MULLIGAN
9- Patrick FLEMING
9- Manel EXPOSITO
10- Dakota LUCAS
10- Luis CORRALES
11- Daniel KOPRIVCIC
12- Ethan GALBRAITH
13- Alex FENERIDIS
16- Campbell PARKIN
14- Adam DICKINSON
17- Dominic ROWE
15- Ivan VICELICH (c)
18- Michael FIFII
16- Albert RIERA
19- James MUSA
17- Adam McGEORGE
20- Luke ROWE
22- Andrew MILNE
22- Justin GULLEY
23- Simon ARMS
25- Scott BASALAJ (GK)
26- Liam ANDERSON (GK)