City hold out determined Hawkes Bay
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.