Auckland City’s march to a remarkable quadruple has come down to one game — the Grand Final of the Men’s National League — after the Navy Blues won their final home game of the year, beating Melville United 2-0.
For City, it was game number 48 in a season that began in February and the side has lost only twice all year.
Despite their final spot being already assured, the Navy Blues ended Melville’s four-match winning streak with a goal in each half.
Main photo: Auckland City Ryan De Vries … celebrates scoring his side’s first goal against Melville United.
Here’s our round-up of Saturday’s fixtures:
Auckland United move into third with win against Rovers
Oliver Middleton gave United the lead midway through the first half when he struck from 12 metres, after a Nic Zambrano ball into the box had been blocked by a defender and it rebounded to him.
Rovers levelled after 28 minutes with a superb team goal.
The visitors had played the ball across the back and the ball travelled the length of the pitch before James Mack played the ball inside to Sam Lack. He skipped past United skipper Ross Haviland and then lashed the ball into the net.
The sides turned around at 1-1.
Five minutes into the second half, United took the lead again, when Will Stephen crossed into the box for Zambrano to head into the net.
United stretched their lead to 3-1 in the 66th minute with a move started by Haviland in his own half. He laid the ball wide and substitute Alexander Hale passed it back into the box where the advancing Haviland’s shot was blocked but he struck the rebound into the goal.
Napier pulled back a goal in the 88th minute when they threw players forward and Jonathan McNamara was able to strike from an angle.
United survived a late chance to Zac Madsen, who dragged his shot wide.
The win moved United into third place on the table, which they will retain unless Birkenhead beats the Wellington Phoenix on Sunday.
Auckland City beat 10-man Melville at Kiwitea Street
Auckland City ensured they will finish top of the table with a 2-0 win at Kiwitea Street against a Melville United side that refused to lie down, despite playing the last 40 minutes with 10 men.
The points mean that even if Wellington Olympic win their last fixture on Sunday, the Navy Blues will top the ladder because with a one-round competition, the rules say the tie breaker is not goal difference but which side had the better of the match between them — and City won that.
Auckland City took the lead after 15 minutes when Gerard Garriga played a beautiful ball through the Melville defence for striker Ryan De Vries to run onto. He kept calm and tipped the ball over the advancing ‘keeper Max Tommy, and into the net.
The game’s crucial incident came five minutes into the second half when Takuya Iwata took the ball into the Melville area, and in the tackle by John Oakman, the ball appeared to hit the defender’s arm.
Referee Calvin Berg pointed to the spot, sparking protests from Melville players. That led to a second yellow card to Liam Hayes, for dissent, and he got his marching orders.
Joe Lee slotted the resulting penalty, to make it 2-0.
To their credit, the Melville players rallied and made it difficult for City who appeared content to manage the rest of the game, no doubt wanting it to end without injury or further incident.
The whistle finally went and City’s hopes for the quadruple now hinge on a single game.
Games played on Saturday November 26, 2022
Auckland United 3 (Oliver Middleton 22′, Nic Zambrano 50′, Ross Haviland 66′)
Napier City Rovers 2 (Sam Lack 28′, Jonathan McNamara 88′)
Auckland City 2 (Ryan De Vries 15′, Joe Lee 51′)
Melville United 0
Game played Friday November 25, 2022
Click here for match report >>>>
Christchurch United 4 (Joel Peterson 25′, 88′, Eddie Wilkinson 26′, 90’+6′)
Cashmere Technical 1 (Lyle Matthysen 90+5′)
Games to be played on Sunday November 27, 2022
Wellington Phoenix v Birkenhead United
Fraser Park, Wellington, 1pm
Miramar Rangers v Wellington Olympic
David Farrington Park, Wellington, 3pm
Game to be broadcast live on Sky Sport