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