Veteran Emiliano Tade has rescued his Auckland City side with a 13-minute hat-trick against Wellington Olympic to send the Navy Blues to the OFC Champions League for a record 11th time.
With 16 minutes left at Kiwitea St, Auckland City were trailing Olympic 3-1 and looked set to lose the two-legged national play-off.
But substitute Tade (35) scored from three set pieces and set up a crucial goal for strike partner Angus Kilkolly to register a 5-3 win for the Aucklanders.
That gave the side a 6-4 aggregate win and a ticket into this year’s OFC Champions League to be held in May, with the winner qualifying for December’s FIFA Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia.
Main photo: Hat-trick hero Emiliano Tade. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
The match had plenty of drama — three penalties, a red card and eight goals to delight the Kiwitea St crowd.
Olympic started well, chancing their arm and showing plenty of confidence.
The Wellington side took the lead in the 16th minute when Tor Davenport Petersen was fouled, and referee CK Kawana-Waugh awarded the first of the day’s penalties.
Olympic captain Ben Mata took responsibility and calmly sent City ‘keeper Conor Tracey the wrong way.
Eight minutes later, and midway through the first half, City captain Cam Howieson created the equaliser with a defence-splitting 35-metre pass that found Liam Gillion.
Gillion deftly flicked the ball over the head of Olympic ‘keeper Scott Basalaj, and it was 1-1.
In the 28th minute, Olympic’s recent signing from Miramar Rangers, Hamish Watson, restored the visitors’ lead with a cracking shot from 25 metres.
The sides turned around with Olympic deserving leaders.
In the 62nd minute, the team from the capital extended their lead to 3-1 with the goal of the game.
After patient build-up, the ball was worked down the left flank and crossed into the City box where Watson clinically directed it into the net.
With a 3-1 lead, it was Olympic’s game to lose. And that’s what they did.
Tade, off the bench in the 58th minute, was looking to get involved in everything.
In the 74th minute, he lined up a direct free kick from an outrageously tight angle and fired it into the far corner of the net.
Two minutes later, City blitzed the Olympic goalmouth, getting the ball into the net and claiming a goal. Instead, referee Kawana-Waugh was pointing to the spot, for a handball by skipper Mata.
After further consideration, Mata was issued with a straight red for preventing the goalscoring opportunity; Olympic were down to 10 men.
Tade lined up the penalty and stroked it to Basalaj’s right. The score was 3-3.
In the 85th minute, Tade played a clever one-two with Kilkolly, setting his teammate up to steer the ball into the net.
For the first time in the game — in fact, for the first time in 175 minutes of play in the two-legged tie — Auckland City had the lead.
And they were never going to surrender it, keeping possession and controlling the rest of the game.
The coup de grace came in the 86th minute when Joe Lee was fouled and City were awarded another penalty.
This time, Tade slotted it to the left of Basalaj.
Tade, who has given so much to Auckland City for so many years, had completed a hat-trick in 13 game-changing minutes.
And City can now look forward to the OFC Champions League draw next Wednesday when they learn who their group opponents will be in May.
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Game played on Saturday March 18, 2023
Auckland City 5 (Liam Gilliam 23′, Emiliano Tade 74′, 77′ pen, 87′ pen, Angus Kilkolly 85′)
Wellington Olympic 3 (Ben Mata 16′ pen, Hamish Watson 28′, 62′)
Game played on Saturday March 11,2023
Wellington Olympic 1 (Joel Stevens 37′)
Auckland City 1 (Christian Gray 79′)
Auckland City win 6-4 on aggregate
How to watch
The match was live-streamed by OFC Media. You can watch it here: