City burst into fifth-straight grand fi­nal

Central Leader - - WHAT’S ON - ANDREWVOERMAN

Auck­land City have ad­vanced to the Stir­ling Sports Premier­ship fi­nal on the back of an ar­che­typal ef­fort against Hawke’s Bay United.

They won 1-0 at Ki­witea St on Satur­day, hold­ing on to the ball for long pe­ri­ods and slowly wear­ing their op­po­nents down through a weight of chances, while look­ing ex­tremely se­cure at the back.

Micah Lea’alafa did the hon­ours in the 64th minute, com­bin­ing with Ryan de Vries to get free in the box be­fore fir­ing past Josh Hill in Hawke’s Bay’s goal, and he might have had a sec­ond in the same fash­ion in the 81st minute, but for an off­side flag.

Hill was the hero for the visi­tors for the first hour, deny­ing City on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, but could do noth­ing about the Solomon Is­lands for­ward’s left-foot rocket.

Lea’alafa has had a quiet sec­ond sea­son in the league - this was his sec­ond goal in his eighth ap­pear­ance, the other com­ing against the same op­po­si­tion prior to Christ­mas - with Fut­sal com­mit­ments and in­jury to blame.

He got a chance here be­cause City were with­out three reg­u­lar starters, with Fabrizio Ta­vano and Joao Mor­eira sus­pended, and Clay­ton Lewis on in­ter­na­tional duty with the All Whites.

The home side dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion through­out, with Hawke’s Bay happy to sit back in two banks of four and look to play on the counter.

Last time these two sides met, Hawke’s Bay came back from a one-goal deficit to win 2-1, but their hero­ics at home that day never came close to be­ing re­peated here, with City keeper Enaut Zu­bikarai largely untested.

Hawke’s Bay’s volatile mid­fielder Cory Chet­tle­burgh was sent off in the 75th minute af­ter pick­ing up two yel­low cards in quick suc­ces­sion for rash chal­lenges, which didn’t help his side in their quest to mount a come­back.

City now move on to next Sun­day’s fi­nal against Team Welling­ton, a re­match of last year’s fi­nal, which will be played at QBE Sta­dium in Auck­land.

Team Welling­ton beat Waitakere United in one of the games of the sea­son on Sun­day, win­ning in a shootout 3-2 af­ter they drew 4-4 in reg­u­la­tion and 6-6 af­ter ex­tra time.

Team Welling­ton are the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons, and will be look­ing to up­set Auck­land City again next week.

PHOTOSPORT

Micah Lea’alafa cel­e­brates scor­ing the only goal of the day.

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