NZFC - Round 6, Croatian Club, Sat 8 December 2007
Ben Sigmund 62
Ian Sanbrook 13
Halftime: 0-1 Referee: Stephen Fletcher (Auckland) Crowd:
Ben Sigmund clearly wasn’t the intended target of Colin Tuaa’s blunt halftime demand for more desire from his off-colour Auckland City players on Saturday.
But it came as no surprise that City’s ever-committed captain took his coach’s message to heart anyway to help spark Auckland’s come-from-behind 4-1 win over 10-man YoungHeart Manawatu.
The result saw unbeaten Auckland overtake Team Wellington at the top of the NZFC table and set up a mouth-watering clash between the two sides in Wellington this Saturday to decide who will go into Christmas on top.
Auckland were missing in action for much of the first 45 minutes in their last match at their temporary Croatian Cultural Society home and it would have been worse save for Sigmund’s whole-hearted, and often last-ditch, defending.
But the All Whites centreback had more in store; out leaping Manawatu goalkeeper Michael Utting to nod home a 62nd minute equaliser from a corner melee.
Keryn Jordan added Auckland’s second in the 70th minute before Korean Ki-Hyung Lee and substitute Jeff Campbell put the result beyond doubt with cracking goals in the 77th and 80th minutes respectively.
“I think we started quite brightly but we just lost our way in the first half and they scored a good goal,” Tuaa said of Sandbrook’s low drive for Manawatu after Adam Cowan had controlled and nicely teed up Nick Roydhouse’s cross from the right.
“We just need more ticker and Ben always provides that. I think the second half was a lot better, the way we should be playing. I suppose the good thing is that it is nice to comeback and be quite convincing. It shows a bit of character.”
Tuaa’s halftime introduction of All Whites midfielder Campbell and Argentine striker Eliezer Anello - for Paul Urlovic and Luiz Del Monte respectively - proved the game’s other defining moment.
“We’re still a relatively new team and we’re still trying different players in different areas. Things probably didn’t happen for Luiz but Jeff came on and did well and I thought the Argentine lad [Anello] came on and really changed things.
“We just started to play again and chase things. It’s nice to be top of the table for a week at least and it would be nice if we could finish the year off on a good note in Wellington.”
Manawatu were good value for their halftime lead but now find themselves off the playoff pace with just four of a possible 18-points.
New Zealand U-20s playmaker Nick Roydhouse was Manawatu’s best but Auckland simply had too much firepower when the upped the ante after halftime.
Lee watched Utting tip a free-kick howlizter onto his crossbar but was given a second shot when Cowan was booked for encroaching early. The Korean “Cannon Shooter” didn’t need a second invitation, expertly threading the ball between Manawatu’s wall and off Utting’s near post.
Campbell then produced a defense splitting ball and a great left-footed finish to capped Auckland’s four-goal burst in 18-minutes. Cowan saw red with eight minutes remaining to complete Manawatu’s misery.
Asked if he was happy with Manawatu’s opening half effort, Rufer said: “Yeah, but the game goes 90 minutes”.
“Our team was possibly a wee bit naďve at the start of the second half and that had a ripple effect. There was a lot of pressure on us and we simply forgot to keep playing.”
Rufer knows Manawatu are walking a playoff tightrope as they eye the visit of Canterbury United on Sunday – their final match before the Christmas-New Year break.
“We’ll have to win just about every game now to have an have an effect on on the championship and that’s not something beyond this group of players,” Rufer said.
“We’ve got a good team…our place on the table doesn’t reflect the football we’re playing.”
Photos: Shane Wenzlick www.phototek.co.nz
NZFC - Round 6, Croatian Club
Sat 8 December Kickoff 2pm
3. Craig Wylie
4. Peni Finau
5. Ben Sigmund (C)
5. Trent Watson
6. Ki-Hyung Lee
11. Ian Sanbrook
9. Paul Urlovic (off 46 for 15)
12. Nick Roydhouse
11. Luiz Del Monte (off 46 23)
15. Prince Quansah (off 67)
12. Tamati Williams (GK)
16. Ian Robinson (C)
14. Keryn Jordan
17. Dominic Rowe
17. Bryan Little
19. Michael Utting (GK)
18. Henry Fa'arodo
20. Adam Cowan
20. Greg Uhlmann
22. Tim Richardson
26. Rupesh Puna
23. Scott Robson
1. Ross Nicholson (RGK)
1. Andrew Bailey
8. Chad Coombes (on 81 for 26)
3. Pablo Yackson (on 67 for 15)
15. Jeff Campbell (on 46 for 9)
7. Gouzalo Nieres
16. George Suri
8. Nathan Cooksley (on 77 for 22)
23. Eliezer Anello (on 46 for 11)
14. Daniel Aliaga
=2 yellow cards
= red card
Welcome to a lovely afternoon at the Croatian Cultural Society for this round six fixture. Can Auckland take advantage of Team Wellington's enforced week off to go top of the table or will it be YoungHeart Manawatu's day in the City of Sails? Stay tuned to find out.
Auckland midfielder Del Monte is wide with an early shot after a slick start from the hosts.
Yellow card - Trent Watson goes in referee Fletcher's book after hauling down Auckland striker Keryn Jordon. Bryan Little skies the resulting free-kick over the bar.
GOAL! 0-1 Ian Sanbrook has given Manawatu a shock early lead, rifling home a low, left-footed drive from just outside the area after Adam Cowan had nicely taken down Nick Roydhouse's cross from the right hand corner.
Auckland striker Paul Urlovic skies a great one-on-one chance well over the bar from near the penalty spot under pressure from Manawatu's Prince Quansah.
Keryn Jordan's glancing header skimms across the goal to safety after a great cross from Bryan Little.
Manawatu look likely when they get wide and Roydhouse shows why, shooting a good chance over the bar.
Auckland City's faithful are growing impatient with their side with calls of "Wake up Blue!" ringing around the stands.
Yellow card - Auckland's Bryan Little is booked for a challenge on Adam Cowan.
Nick Roydhouse is just wide of the far post with a sot with the outside of his left foot from just outside the area. Auckland are off colour.
Urlovic shots straight into the hands of Manawatu stopper Michael Utting who is coming in for some good natured stick from the Auckland crowd.
Yellow card - Manawatu's Fijian defender Peni Finau goes into the book after clattering Auckland's Korean playmaker Ki-Hyung Lee.
Urlovic is just wide with a shot scross the goal for Auckland but is berated by his team-mates for not crossing.
Manawatu continue to cause problems at the back for Auckland with Finau's header knocked away by City stopper Tamati Williams.
The fourth officials as notified four additional first half minutes to be played.
0-1 - Manawatu are good value for their lead with Auckland largely missing in action.
DOUBLE SUB - Auckland City coach Colin Tuaa has made a double substitution at halftime with Jeff Campbell and Eliezer Anello on for Urlovic and Del Monte respectively.
It's been a helter skelter start to the second half but with few clear cut chances for either side.
Yellow card - Manawatu's Prince Quansah is on the book for an illegal tackle on Craig Wylie.
Auckland's Henry Fa'arodo produces a great point-blank save from Michael Utting.
GOAL! 1-1 Auckland City skipper Ben Sigmund has equalised for the hosts, somehow out-jumping Utting to nod home from close range after Greg Uhlmann headed a corner back across the goal.
Auckland nearly take the lead only for Utting to rush out and smother a one-on-one chance with Jordon.
Lee fires a free-kick variation over the bar from the edge of the box.
SUB - Manawatu - Pablo Yackson on, Prince Quansah off.
GOAL! 2-1 Auckland are ahead through Keryn Jordan after a sustained perioid of domination. The South African marksman rifled the ball over the advancing Utiing after Manawatu failed to clear.
Yellow card - Jordan is in the book for an elbow.
SUB - Manawatu - Nathan Cooksley on, Tim Richardson off.
GOAL! 3-1 Ki-Hyung Lee has scored with a re-taken free-kick which cannons in off the near post. It comes after Lee's initial free-kick is tipped onto the bar by Utting only to be recalled as Adam Cowan encroached and is yellow carded.
Yellow card - Adam Cowan is booked for encroaching.
GOAL! 4-1 Auckland substitiute Jeff Campbell puts the result beyond doubt with a great left-footed shot after sparking an attack with a fantastic ball.
SUB - Auckland - Chad Coombes is on for Rupesh Puna.
RED CARD! Manawatu have been reduced to 10-men after Adam Cowan is booked for dissent.
4-1 - Auckland City go top of the table after an emphatic second half display.
Full report and pictures to follow.