City hold out de­ter­mined Hawkes Bay

Central Leader - - News - By Jeremy Ruane

Auck­land City re­turned to the foot­ball pitch on Sun­day for the first time since fin­ish­ing fifth at the Fifa Club World Cup fi­nals late last year, notch­ing up a 2-1 victory over Hawkes Bay United at Ki­witea Street.

City be­gan in strong fash­ion with Ki Hyung Lee’s dip­ping long-range free kick be­ing tipped away from the top far cor­ner by Bay keeper Richard Gille­spie in the fifth minute.

Sixty sec­onds later the as­sis­tant ref­eree’s off­side flag de­nied Ja­son Hayne the open­ing goal of the game.

But Hayne wasn’t de­nied a sec­ond time, scor­ing af­ter 15 min­utes thanks to some in­ci­sive off-the-ball move­ment from James Pritch­ett.

Ian Hogg hit the post just af­ter the half-hour mark as the reign­ing cham­pi­ons con­tin­ued to en­joy the bet­ter of the ex­changes.

Joachim Rande spurned a cou­ple of chances to draw Hawkes Bay level be­fore the hour mark as the vis­i­tors pressed without truly threat­en­ing Ja­cob Spoon­ley’s goal.

That was un­til the 62nd minute, when Rande rose to power a header against the base of the post with the goal­keeper stranded – a huge let-off for the ti­tle­hold­ers, which seemed to rouse them out of their slum­ber.

They sur­vived a cou­ple more scares be­fore clinch­ing the points against the run of play three min­utes from time.

Pritch­ett, Hayne and Daniel Ko­priv­cic com­bined to cre­ate an open­ing which sub­sti­tute Grant Young con­verted from three me­tres out.

While there was still time for Leon Birnie to net a de­served goal for Bay, Auck­land held on for a hard-earned win.

City’s next clash is against third-placed Otago United on Sun­day from 2pm at Ki­witea St.

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