City win cup trip

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By JEREMY RUANE and JESS LEE

THEY were out to prove they were far from sec­ond best from the mo­ment the first whis­tle blew at Mt Smart Sta­dium for the OFC Cham­pi­ons League grand fi­nal.

And now Auck­land City FC have the chance to show they de­serve their place along­side the world’s best when they head to the FIFA Club World Cup in De­cem­ber.

The Navy Blues saw off arch-ri­vals Waitakere United 2-1 on Sun­day to se­cure them­selves a trip to Morocco for the World Cup, a US$500,000 pay cheque and a place in foot­balling his­tory.

They are the first team to win three straight Ocea­nia Cham­pi­ons League ti­tles af­ter meet­ing Waitakere for the first time in the tour­na­ment show­piece.

Their crosstown ri­vals claimed the do­mes­tic triple crown this sea­son, with ti­tles in the ASB Premier­ship, ASB Premier­ship Grand Fi­nal and ASB Char­ity Cup, so City were hell­bent on pre­vent­ing Waitakere from hoard­ing all the sil­ver­ware.

Auck­land City coach Ra­mon Tribu­li­etx says he is im­pressed by the team and their abil­ity to get one over on the old foe in the clash that mat­tered most. ‘‘This was the tight­est of our ti­tle wins in this com­pe­ti­tion and we knew it prob­a­bly would be be­cause all the der­bies have been very close this year,’’ he says.

‘‘We were ex­pect­ing Waitakere to come at us be­cause a place at the FIFA Club World Cup was on the line – we knew they would throw ev­ery­thing at us and even the keeper was go­ing for­ward at the end.’’

It will be the fifth time the cen­tral Auck­land side trav­els to the World Cup.

‘‘The club deserves that credit and recog­ni­tion – Morocco is hap­pen­ing, which is fan­tas­tic for ev­ery­one con­nected with Auck­land City FC,’’ Tribu­li­etx says.

But thoughts of De­cem­ber’s tour­na­ment, which will see the am­a­teur and semi-pro­fes­sional play­ers test their skills against a host of pro­fes­sional out­lets, is far from the team’s minds this week.

‘‘We’ll start to think about the World Cup next week but for now we just want to en­joy this mo­ment.’’

First-half goals from Adam Dick­in­son and Alex Fener­idis started City on their path to Morocco.

United were chas­ing shad­ows as City dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion through­out the open­ing half-hour and bossed the game in a man­ner one rarely as­so­ciates with New Zealand football, given the ten­dency to play long balls for­ward at al­most ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.

Five min­utes be­fore half­time Waitakere halved the deficit, with Chad Coombes tap­ping home af­ter Jake But­ler’s lobbed ball over the de­fence al­lowed Roy Kr­ishna to beat the off­side trap.

But Waitakere’s hopes of a come­back were dealt a bru­tal blow in the 59th minute when Tim My­ers was sent off for com­mit­ting his sec­ond book­able of­fence. It left the 10 men vul­ner­a­ble to City’s coun­ter­at­tack­ing qual­i­ties.

City re­buffed ev­ery­thing their ri­vals could muster and when the fi­nal whis­tle sounded it was Auck­land who were crowned Ocea­nia cham­pi­ons yet again.

Photo: AN­DREW COR­NAGA PHOTOSPORT.CO.NZ

Win­ning per­for­mance: The newly crowned OFC Cham­pi­ons League cham­pi­ons Auck­land City FC have se­cured them­selves a place in football’s his­tory books with a third straight win.

Photo: SHANE WENZLICK PHOTOTEK

Ri­vals bat­tle: Auck­land’s Adam Dick­in­son gets the edge on Waitakere’s Sam Matthews.

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