NZFC - Round 1, Kiwitea Street
Sunday 9 November, 2008
Matt Friel 9
Halftime: 1-0 Referee: Antony Riley Crowd: 836
by Bob Pearce at Kiwitea Street
Auckland City began their New Zealand Football Championship campaign with a 2-0 victory over Otago, but they were never able to relax.
The southerners, who were cellar-dwellers for so much of last season, clearly came to play and they had their chances to cause an upset on the manicured turf at Kiwitea St.
Matt Friel put the home team ahead in the ninth minute when he expertly glanced a header home from a right-wing corner. But it was not until the 63rd minute that Keryn Jordan made the game safe as he fastened on to a pass from Ki-Hyung Lee and scored from close range.
Ten minutes earlier there was controversy when Dave Dugdale twisted his way past the last Aucklander and seemed set to score with a one-on-one with goalkeeper Ross Nicholson only for the linesman's flag to nullify the play.
The Otago bench erupted in disbelief but the decision stood and the breakout turned into one of the great might-have beens. The ruling was that Dugdale had come back from an offside position to take the ball initially.
"I don't know what the linesman and referee saw but a goal then would have lifted the lads," said Otago coach Terry Phelan later.
As it was Jordan's goal provided something of a comfort zone for Auckland, though their complacency was shattered when Barry Gardiner rattled the crossbar with a fierce freekick in the 81st minute.
Refreshing for the good crowd who watched the game in perfect weather was Otago's determination to make a game of it and not resort to the nine-man defence that drew criticism at the start of last season.
They pushed men forward and created opportunities but there were few testing shots on goal and too many passes went astray, gifting possession to the home team.
"It was criminal to give away a goal to a corner," said Phelan, "and you can't give the ball away so often to a quality side like Auckland.
"But we came to play and we tried to get people in the box. The boys were prepared to die for the cause and you can't ask more than that."
Auckland coach Colin Tuaa was pleased with his team's performance, though he admitted there was some sharpening to be done.
"I thought we had a reasonably good first half, but after we got the goal the intensity dropped. The second half was really good and we showed plenty of composure."
Auckland striker Grant Young's 100th game for the club was not his best and that was down to some tenacious defence from Otago. Big central defender Colin Falvey was a commanding figure, well backed by Tristan Prattley and Tim Horner.
Ivan Vicelich and Matt Friel anchored the Auckland defence and Ki-Hyung Lee, though off target with his bullet-like freekicks, was always creative in midfield and provided the pass that sealed the game.
Auckland travel to Waikato's new Ngaruwahia base next Seaturday , while Otago entertain Canterbury in the season's first Southern derby.
1 Ross Nicholson (GK)
1 Liam Little
2 Nelson Sale
2 Rhys Henderson
3 Matt Friel
3 Tristan Prattley
5 Matt Williams
4 Barry Gardiner
6 Ki-Hyung Lee
5 Colin Falvey
8 Chad Coombes
7 Robbie Deeley
10 Grant Young (out 70)
8 Blair Scoular (out 66)
11 Alick Maemae (out 59)
10 Dave Dugdale
14 Keryn Jordan (out 75)
11 Andy Coburn
15 Ivan Vicelich
12 Arron Burgess (out 60)
21 Riki van Steeden
17 Tim Horner
9 Paul Urlovic (in 75)
6 Mike Smith
12 Jacob Spoonley (RGK)
9 Tom Jackson (in 60)
16 George Suri
14 Sean Brand
24 Milos Nicolic (in 70)
18 Tom Conner (in 66)
25 Adam McGeorge (in 59)
=2 yellow cards
= red card
Brilliantly fine with a cross wind. Ground in superb order
Early kickoff sees Otago showing they've come to play with Scoullar and Dugdale pushing forward.
Lee freekick headed over.
GOAL! Friel heads in from right-wing corner. Auckland 1-0.
Pressure from Otago but final shot weak.
Goalie Liam Little gives team a fright by having to dive behind him to save his own fumble.
Yellow cards for Van Steeden for tackle on Burgess and Scoullar for retaliation.
Burgess weaves through defence but shot doesn't trouble Nicholson.
Yellow card Maemae for tackle on Gardiner but freekick easily cleared.
45 plus two
Halftime 1-0 and Otago are very much in touch and with the wind switching behind them for the second half may still upset the home side.
Both teams unchanged for second half
Young fouled on edge of penalty area but Lee's freekick blocked
Yellow for Falvey, scramble sees Jordan accidentally block shot from Van Steeden.
Dugdale clean through but ruled offside controversially as Otago bench erupted in protest.
Jordan wriggles free and crosses but Young was a missing hair too short to capitalise.
Auckland City sub. Maemae off, McGeorge on. Otago bring on Jackson for Burgess.
Falvey chips across goal but Jackson's diving header straight to Nicholson.
GOAL! Auckland surge back and Lee finds Jordan unmarked for 2-0 City.
Substitution, Scoullar off, Brand on.
Yellow card Horner for dissent.
Substitution Nikolic replaces Young for debut in league, replacing 100-game veteran.
Sub for Auckland Urlovic for Jordan.
Gardiner freekick bounces clear off crossbar.
Deeley off for Otago, Conner on.
Final shot by Williams sails wide and the final whistle goes at 2-0.