ASB Premiership - Round 14
Memorial Park, Palmerston North
Sunday 24 February, 2013
TADE 23', 50'
Halftime: 1-1 Referee: Campbel-Kir WAUGH Crowd: 150
by Matt Barnes at Memorial Park
After Waikato defeated Otago today, Manawatu needed at least a point to climb clear of the bottom of the table, but an assured second half performance from the visitors shut that possibility down.
If the final result was conclusive, the early exchanges were anything but. Manawatu have been guilty this season of conceding early goals but this time it was their turn to catch the opposition off-guard.
Dale Higham, named this week in the Under-20 New Zealand side, latched on to a Tom Mosquera through-ball in the fourth minute. Auckland goalkeeper Tamati Williams seemed to have done enough in forcing Higham wide, but the Manawatu striker kept his cool and slotted home from a very tight angle.
The goal seemed to rattle the visitors and they were harried time and again by a high pressing game employed by Manawatu.
It was not until a quarter of the way through the game when Emiliano Tade cut in from the right-hand touchline and hit a low speculator from thirty yards. It seemed unthreatening, but Manawatu ‘keeper Matt Borren misjudged the shot and stayed rooted to the spot as it rolled in off the bottom of the post.
The equaliser allowed Auckland to settle into their trademark passing brand of football. They began to find space out wide, particularly through the impressive overlapping defenders Takuya Iwata and captain James Pritchett.
Borren made up for his earlier error with a string of excellent saves and they, combined with the post from a Gustavo Souto Sampredo effort, ensured scores remained level at the break.
Both teams came out with purpose in the second spell but it would be a controversial penalty decision changed the game.
Manel Exposito was at the right-hand edge of the box when he went down under minimal contact, but referee Campbell-Kirk Waugh had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Tade despatched the resulting spot-kick with aplomb and Auckland had the lead at last after 50 minutes on the clock.
The penalty decision caused tempers to fray and the next ten minutes became a cacophony of whistles as Manawatu picked up a succession of yellow cards for back chat and rash challenges.
Auckland took the opportunity to pounce and a throw-in from the right was hit on the turn by Albert Vidal in an inch-perfect cross that Exposito clinically buried into the bottom left-hand corner of the net to make it 3-1.
Gamely, Manawatu threw themselves forward to try and get back into the game, but only succeeded in opening themselves up to the counter-attack. A fast break in the 83rd minute found Andrew Milne on the right just over halfway and his long, looping pass was perfectly placed into the path of the fast-arriving Daniel Saric. The young substitute’s close range shot left Borren with no chance and the match was safe.
Auckland will now play Canterbury United in the first leg of their semi-final next week, but for Manawatu the season is over. The men in green may have doubled their points tally from last season, but it was still a frustrating campaign where the results often did not reflect the quality of performances.
They will take heart from the amount of young talent they have on display and with three players named in the Junior All Whites and other promising prospects like teenager Alex Rufer, there is every reason for Manawatu supporters to expect the 2013-2014 season to be another step up and maybe, at last, away from the foot of the ASB Premiership ladder.
1- Matt BORREN (GK)
12- Tamati WILLIAMS (GK)
4- Kade SCHRIJVERS (c)
2- Simon ARMS
7- Josh CHETTLEBURGH
3- Takuya IWATA
8- Nathan COOKSLEY
5- Greg UHLMANN
10- Adam COWAN
7- James PRITCHETT (c)
11- Tom MOSQUERA
9- Manuel EXPOSITO
12- Khair JONES
10- Gustavo Souto SAMPEDRO
15- Billy SCOTT
11- Daniel KOPRIVCIC
18- Dale HIGHAM
13- Alex FENERIDIS
20- Sam REDWOOD
16- Albert Riera VIDAL
25- Alex RUFER
20- Emiliano TADE
19- Ben WILKES (GK)
6- Jordan VALE
14- Tyson BRANDT
19- Daniel SARIC
16- Souleymane CISSOKO
22- Andrew MILNE
17- Jordan MARTENS
22- Grant ROBSON
=2 yellow cards
= red card
Play by Play
Yet again, Palmerston North has turned on the sun for an ASB Premiership tie at Memorial Park. If the home weather has been good for Youngheart Manawatu, the results have not and the form book would spell out a near-certain victory today for the star-studded visiting Auckland City side.
But one critical fact may upset the predictions. Auckland are guaranteed second spot on the ladder regardless whether they win, lose or draw today. They are resting a few key players, such as talisman Ivan VICELICH, the impressive Chris BALE and 'keeper Jacob SPOONLEY.
While on the other side of the coin, Manawatu are locked in a three-way battle to avoid the wooden spoon and with the other two sides - Waikato and Otago - playing each other today, Youngheart will be desperate for a result here to achieve their best league finish for three years. Will that desperation be enough?
Conditions really are impeccable. The sun is strong, the pitch looks hard and fast, which certainly is conducive to Auckland's signature Spanish-influenced flowing passing game.
The teams are on their way out now...
And we're just about ready to go. Looks like Auckland will be kicking off, playing towards the Ashhurst end of the ground and into a reasonable breeze that has just picked up. The hosts will be hoping for a strong start - they've had a tendency to conceded early goals and put themselves on the back foot.
Referee WAUGH blows the whistle and we're away!
Auckland settle quickly, playing the ball from the back and immediately cominating possession.
GOAL! MOSQUERA puts HIGHAM through. The pacy striker springs the offside trap, rounds WILLIAMS and finishes from a very tight angle. Great composure and what a boost to the home side!
They go for a quick repeat, with a long ball from the back from SCHRIJVERS, but this time the City defence steps up well and MOSQUERA is caught just offside.
Auckland try to get back into their possession approach, with VIDAL dictating proceedings from the centre of the park.
HIGHAM is clattered by TADE in midfield and it's a free kick for Youngheart. Alex RUFER launches it into the box but IWATA heads clear.
Auckland seem a little rattled by that early goal. The passes just aren't flowing as they normally would.
COWAN is starting to impose himself on midfield for the men in green. He looks confident and assurred in there, playing some nice passes already, which stops the otherwise direct style of Manawatu being too predictable.
EXPOSITO is blocked out in the box and the ball rolls back to FENERIDIS, but his chip through for the overlapping PRITCHETT is too heavy and rolls out for a goal kick.
Manawatu swing straight back onto attack, a deep ball finding RUFER free on the right, but the youngster's volley is sliced somewhat and goes well wide.
EXPOSITO tries a long range speculator, but he scuffs his shot and COWAN is able to block and clear.
MOSQUERA gets free on the right, holds it up until HIGHAM arrives in the middle, but this time the NZ U-20 rep sees his shot blocked.
Auckland seem to be finding their feet now and getting over that early setback. PRITCHETT is looking menacing out on the left, while IWATA is sparking creativity on the right. So far, though, the Manawatu defence looks well-organised.
WILLIAMS dallies on the ball and his clearance is half-blocked by the flying Khair JONES. It balloons high to MOSQUERA, but his header is saved by the fast-recovering WILLIAMS who saves his own blushes, as well.
GOAL! Out of nothing! TADE cuts in from the right some 25 yards out and hits a low shot. BORREN can only stand and watch as it goes in off the left-hand upright. 1-1 now.
EXPOSITO is away now, free in the box he hits it across BORREN, but the Manawatu 'keeper throws himself across and deflects the ball away to safety.
Now City are controlling things. PRITCHETT skips away, but his cross is cut out by BORREN, who clutches it to his chest thankfully.
A high press from Manawatu allows HIGHAM to pinch it off the toe of IWATA and the Auckland left-back is forced to give away a foul to stop him and collects a yellow card for his trouble.
Ohhh! A header from the free-kick just grazes over WILLIAMS' crossbar. Manawatu trying to fight back here.
Magnificent flowing interchange by the Auckland attack, with a quick one-two from FENERIDIS putting him free just eight yards out, but BORREN pulls off a stunner, dropping like lightning to save and hang on.
Manawatu are working hard, but they are being reduced to long balls a little too often.
The pressing and physical presence of Youngheart is rattling the Aucklanders, though. It's turning into quite the clash of styles.
PRITCHETT crosses and SOUTO SAMPREDO arrives, but his shot hits the far post. So close!
RUFER combines with HIGHAM, who wins a corner for Manawatu. He takes it himself, playing short to COWAN, who threads it back to HIGHAM. HIGHAM cuts inside and cracks a fierce shot, but WILLIAMS dives well to parry.
IWATA displays some silky skills down the right, cutting in and beating RUFER before playing a dangerous ball across the mouth of the Manawatu goal on the deck. Fortunately for the home team, BORREN is able to dive and sweep it away from danger. The corner goes short to IWATA and this time he takes it on himself, hitting a terrific drive from distance, but again BORREN is equal to the task, tipping it over the bar.
The corner is easily headed clear by Manawatu for a throw-in.
And that's half-time.
Auckland were thrown off their stride by that early goal, but as the half progressed, they steadily settled into their work. The likes of COOKSLEY, SCOTT and COWAN seem to have the central channels blocked up, but City are finding more happiness when they go wide, particularly when PRITCHETT and IWATA get forward.
Manawatu have been forced to play from deeper and deeper, but the long ball does pose some threat. WILLIAMS has looked tentative in clearing the ball when played back to him and the hard-running pressure from the Manawatu forward line is causing concern right through the Auckland backline.
If Auckland can get the ground passing going at full pace, they should be able to take this one. But Manawatu look up for the fight and much better drilled than in some previous outings. The physicality of MOSQUERA and the pace of HIGHAM remain constant threats, especially fed by the creativity of RUFER or the shrewd passing of COWAN. Manawatu will probably look to play on the break through those four.
A check over with the fine work of Niall Anderson reveals that Waikato have triumphed over Otago so Manawatu will need at least a draw, now, in order to consign the Southerners to the wooden spoon.
MOSQUERA and SCOTT get us underway for the second half. The breeze has dropped away, but the sun is still beaming down as Manawatu chase their first home win since 2011.
Both teams have come out at a blistering pace. Doesn't look like anybody is settling for a draw in this one!
TADE tries to repeat his goal of the first half, but BORREN stoops to collect without too much trouble.
IWATA battles with SCOTT in midfield and wins a free-kick for his side some 30 yards out. It goes short, but COOKSLEY and JONES combine to smother the attack.
PENALTY! EXPOSITO turns in at the right-hand edge of the box and is clipped...not much in it, but the ref had no hesitation at all in pointing to the spot.
GOAL! 2-1 Auckland. TADE slams it into the bottom left-hand corner with disdain, leaving BORREN going the wrong way.
And a booking to SCHRIJVERS around the halfway line for a mid-air challenge. Substitution for Manawatu - JONES makes way for MARTENS.
Things are getting a little testy now. COOKSLEY gets a bookign for some back chat.
HIGHAM now getting a talking to and referee calls over captain SCHRIJVERS to calm his side down. It doesn't work, though, and moments later HIGHAM dives into a tackle and picks up a yellow, too.
That penalty call really has upset the home side. They need to settle down or the cards will keep coming.
Another cross from PRITCHETT, but SHCRIJVERS climbs into the stratosphere to head it to safety.
GOAL! 3-1. Throw to VIDAL, who hits a first-time cross on the turn straight to EXPOSITO, who crisply side-foots home. When they get it right, Auckland can make the game look a simple thing. Classy stuff.
A change for Auckland with Jordan VALE coming on for KOPRIVCIC.
Tyson BRANDT is also on for Manawatu, replacing Billy SCOTT.
Corner for Auckland. IWATA swings it in. TADE gets to it, but can only glance it on and it bounces harmlessly away.
TADE crosses from the left, EXPOSITO flicks it on with the inside of his right foot and SAMPREDO, seven yards out, blazes a mile high. He holds his head in his hands and someone mutters, "muppet". Must be a Jim Henson fan.
Activity on the bench. ROBSON replaces REDWOOD in green and SARIC on for FENERIDIS for Auckland.
Free kick for Manawatu out near the left-hand touchline. HIGHAM takes it, going short to MARTENS, whose drilled cross is blocked by PRITCHETT.
SAMPREDO goes down a bit theatrically. But if DiCaprio can't win an Oscar, that performance certainly won't.
MOSQUERA charges into the Auckland defence and it brought down. Free kick from the right-hand side for Manawatu. Too wide for the direct shot, so HIGHAM launches it far post. COOKSLEY gets in unmarked, but his head is just over the bar.
SAMPREDO goes down with another death rattle cry, but referee WAUGH is unmoved. The Auckland newcomer is not winning friends with the Manawatu fans, that's for sure. And SAMPREDO is now being subbed. Andrew MILNE takes his place.
TADE sweeps inside from the left, but BRANDT swoops to clear for the corner. The corner is half-cleared to SARIC, who smashes a crisp shot through the crowd. BORREN dives to pull off another quality save. He must've seen that one very late - great reactions from the Youngheart custodian.
GOAL! 4-1! An Auckland fast break and MILNE crosses deep to the fast-running SARIC who buries it from close range. That should seal it!
MOSQUERA wriggles free in the Auckland box, but his left foot effort is sliced wide. The game is getting a bit scrappy now. Manawatu are trying to find a way back into things, but it's not easy. A corner finds COOKSLEY, dreadlocks flying like a reggae concert, but again his header just fails to find the target.
Manawatu press hard, but that just opens them up on the break. MILNE is free in front of goal, but a sliding COOKSLEY pulls off an incredible block to save the day for Manawatu.
And that's full-time!
Auckland really locked things down in the second half and took control of a match that looked up for grabs at the break. They were able to keep possession and dictate terms with Manawatu unable to threaten until the match was lost.
City will head into the semi-finals with a good win to finish the regular season. It wasn't always fluent, but they showed their class when they had to. For Manawatu, the result means an unwanted record as the first successive ASB Premiership wooden spoon. Despite that, this has been a step up over performances last year and they have proven a much more competitive outfit in 2012-2013. With the amount of young talent coming through, like their three Junior All Whites and promising teen Alex Rufer, the signs are there for a much better finish next season.
That's it, though, from Memorial Park for this season. A full match report to follow in the next couple of hours...