Honours are even between Wellington Olympic and Auckland City after a tense first leg ended 1-1 in their OFC Champions League national play-off.
Olympic scored through new signing Joel Stevens while City rescued the draw with Christian Gray’s first goal for the Navy Blues.
Playing at Martin Luckie Park in Wellington, the home side were the more confident in the early exchanges with Jack Henry-Sinclair having the first goalscoring chance of the game, and then recently-signed striker Hamish Watson missing the target.
Auckland City, with plenty of experience playing high-stakes games, patiently settled into their rhythm and the balance of the game started to tilt.
But in the 37th minute, Olympic scored when Sinclair struck a defence-splitting pass into the path of All White Stevens who calmly steered it past goalkeeper Connor Tracey and inside the far post.
Olympic had the lead they wanted; the gauntlet had been thrown down to the national champions.
The second half was balanced, and tense, as the sides probed for opportunities and kept it tight at the back.
Auckland City got their equaliser in the 79th minute when Gray was left clear at the back post to finish a cross.
Olympic could not find a winner and they now face the challenge of beating City at their Kiwitea Street stronghold.
Next weekend’s second leg looks to be a thriller.
Game played on Saturday March 11,2023
Wellington Olympic 1 (Joel Stevens 37′)
Auckland City 1 (Christian Gray 79′)
To watch the match, follow this link:
Game to be played on Saturday March 18, 2023
Auckland City v Wellington Olympic
Kiwitea St, Sandringham, 4pm (NZT)