Auckland City and Auckland United are now the only unbeaten sides left in the Men’s National League after both sides won their games on Sunday.
City beat previously-unbeaten Napier City Rovers 3-0 at Kiwitea Street while United scored a late winner in Wellington to beat Miramar Rangers 1-0.
Going into the weekend, the competition had four unbeaten sides but Birkenhead United stumbled, losing at Cashmre Technical on Saturday.
Main photo: The ball’s about to bulge the net as Joe Lee puts Auckland City ahead against Napier City Rovers at Kiwitea St.
Here’s our round-up of Sunday’s games:
Improving Auckland City give Rovers their first loss
Auckland City beat Napier City Rovers 3-0 at Kiwitea St to go to the top of the national league table.
Using their passing game to full effect, City controlled the pace and tempo of an entertaining game in which Napier showed enterprise but couldn’t finish chances.
Rovers clearly didn’t feel intimidated by playing at the home of the the Northern League champions, and started the game with confidence.
In the 13th minute, Leaford Allen whipped a shot from the edge of the area just past the City post.
Auckland City broke through in the 17th minute after a long spell of possession that started when Emiliano Tade’s shot was parried by Rovers ‘keeper Oscar Mason.
Once recovered, the ball went player to player till Joe Lee took it on the right flank. He cut inside, played a one-two with Tade, and then smashed the ball into the net.
Striker Angus Kilkolly went close to doubling the Navy Blues’ lead, hitting the crossbar.
At the other end, Jonathan McNamara had the best chance of the half for Napier, shooting with only goalkeeper Conor Tracey to beat. But Tracey got a hand to the ball, steering it wide.
After turning round 1-0 up, City applied early pressure in the second spell.
Lee continued to torment defenders and in the 50th minute, he weaved through a packed defence and nutmegged an opponent to set up Tade whose shot was blocked by Fergus Neil when a goal seemed certain.
A few minutes later, Tade struck a shot from the edge of the area that flew over the bar.
Just after the hour mark, Lee was dragged down by a defender, earning a penalty.
Tade stepped up and stroked the ball into the net for his 141st career goal for the Navy Blues.
With 10 minutes to go, substitute Reid Drake forced ‘keeper Mason to save at full stretch.
In the dying minutes, City finished off the result when Jordan Vale found himself unmarked and in the box — he slotted the ball inside the post.
After looking out of sorts in their opening games this season, City’s performance against Napier showed they are returning to their confident best.
Late goal pushes Auckland United up league table
A late winner from Josh Redfearn has lifted Auckland United among the national league leaders.
Miramar Rangers and Auckland United were evenly matched for 80 minutes of this fixture at David Farrington Park, but though both had hit the woodwork, neither could break through.
That was until the 81st when the game turned.
Rangers had earned a free kick 40 metres out and they sent the big men forward for when the ball was hoisted into the United box.
It was cleared by a defender, as Rangers players appealed for a handball, and United broke fast and down the left.
Substitute Guy-frank Essome Penda struck a perfectly-placed ball across the area, enabling Redfearn to turn it across the goalline for the game-breaker.
Rangers, desperate for their first win of the season, pushed forward in search of an equaliser and had their best chance when striker Hamish Watson headed over the bar.
Such is the closeness of the competition, the win lifted United from the bottom half of the table into third place.
Games played on Sunday October 23, 2022
Auckland City 3 (Joe Lee 17′, Emiliano Tade 63′ pen, Jordan Vale 89′)
Napier City Rovers 0
Miramar Rangers 0
Auckland United 1 (Josh Redfearn 81′)
Games played on Saturday October 22, 2022
Click here for match reports >>>>
Melville United 1 (Ryen Lawrence 59′)
Cashmere Technical 3 (Jacob Richards 37′, Garbhan Coughlan 53′, 77′)
Wellington Olympic 2 (Jonty Roubos 2′, Jack-Henry Sinclair 63′)
Birkenhead United 0
Christchurch United 1 (Mika Rabuka 25′)
Wellington Phoenix 3 (Matthew Sheridan 9′, Ben Wallace 18′, Kaelin Nguyen 21′)