Auckland City have booked a Grand Final berth against Wellington Olympic, keeping alive their hopes of another national title.
City made sure they’ll be in the season finale on Sunday December 4 with a 2-1 win against bottom club Miramar Rangers, while Olympic secured their spot with a 7-1 win against Christchurch United on Saturday.
Auckland City are chasing a quadruple, seeking to add the Men’s National League title to their wins in the OFC Champions League, the Northern League and the Chatham Cup.
Main photo: Adam Bell (22) congratulates goalscorer Liam Gillion after Auckland City take the lead against Miramar Rangers.
Here’s our round-up of Sunday’s action:
Auckland City earn finals spot with 2-1 win in the rain
Auckland City beat Miramar Rangers 2-1 in wet conditions at their Kiwitea St home.
Despite the home side’s domination of possession, Auckland City could not find a way through the Miramar Rangers defence until stoppage time at the end of the first half.
But when the goal came, it was a beauty.
A long through ball reached City’s foraging forward Liam Gillion. He took a touch to control it and then volleyed it past goalkeeper Joe Knowles.
The timing of the goal settled City nerves; they had one foot in the Grand Final.
In the second half, the Navy Blues continued to control the game, with 72% of the possession in the first hour of play.
But a second goal would provide a much-needed buffer.
When it came, it did so with controversy.
City’s Cam Howieson fired a shot that struck a Rangers defender on his back. The ball ricocheted and Howieson reclaimed possession, and was brought down in a tackle.
After consultation with his assistant, referee Nick Waldron pointed to the penalty spot.
Emiliano Tade, just introduced to the game off the bench, calmly belted the penalty into the net.
Against the run of play, Rangers scored with a spectacular goal from Sam Mason-Smith. He intercepted a poor City pass and saw the opportunity to hit the ball first time from 40 metres, and it sailed over keeper Conor Tracey’s head and into the net.
Rangers made every effort to find an equaliser and home supporters were relieved when the final whistle finally blew after six long minutes of stoppage time.
Phoenix beat Cashmere Technical 3-1
The Wellington Phoenix reserves leapfrogged Cashmere Technical on the table with a 3-1 win in Christchurch.
Nicholas Pennington gave the Phoenix the lead in the 26th minute when he struck a sweet shot from the edge of the area.
The Phoenix doubled their lead in the 29th minute when Ben Wallace spotted Cashmere ‘keeper Harrison Rowe off his line and shot from 40 metres, the ball sailing high into the net.
The home team pulled back a goal as the first half entered added time.
Garbhan Coughlan was through on goal and was brought down. He smashed home the resulting penalty to send the teams into the half-time break with the Phoenix ahead 2-1.
The Phoenix restored their two-goal margin in the 65th minute when a free kick on the edge of the area was passed quickly around the Cashmere wall for substitute Josh Tollervey to tap home.
Games played on Sunday November 20, 2022
Auckland City 2 (Liam Gillion 45+1′, Emiliano Tade 70′ pen)
Miramar Rangers 1 (Sam Mason-Smith 77′)
Cashmere Technical 1 (Garbhan Coughlan 45+1′ pen)
Wellington Phoenix 3 (Nicholas Pennington 26′, Ben Wallace 29′, Josh Tollervey 65′)
Games played on Saturday November 19, 2022
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Wellington Olympic 7 (Jesse Randall 8′, 56′, 60′, 79′, Ben Mata 16′, Gianni Bouzoukis 22′, 40′)
Christchurch United 1 (Dan MacLennan 18′)
Birkenhead United 2 (Dylan Hobson 37′, Corban Piper 50′)
Auckland United 0
Melville United 4 (Oliver Colloty 9′, own goal 13′, Stafford Dowling 22′, Joshua Galletly 38′)
Napier City Rovers 3 (Christian Leopard 4′, Sho Goto 25′, Fergus Neil 45’+1′ pen)
Game to be played on Friday November 25, 2022
Christchurch United v Cashmere Technical
Christchurch Football Centre, Christchurch, 7pm
Games to be played on Saturday November 26, 2022
Auckland United v Napier City Rovers
Keith Hay Park, Mt Roskill, 1pm
Auckland City v Melville United
Kiwitea St, Sandringham, 3pm
Wellington Phoenix v Birkenhead United
Fraser Park, Wellington, 1pm
Miramar Rangers v Wellington Olympic
David Farrington Park, Wellington, 3pm