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Stirling Sports Premiership match report 1
City Scoring Spree Secures Semis Spot
by Jeremy Ruane
Auckland City advanced to the semi-finals of the OFC Champions League in emphatic fashion at Centre Park in Mangere on March 19, handing out an 11-0 mauling to Malampa Revivors to finish top of their group.

It's just the third time in their history that City have recorded a double-digit victory. Their first was a 12-2 trouncing of AS Mont Dore at Kiwitea Street on 13 April 2013, with the other a 10-0 thumping of Southern United at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium ten months later.

It didn't take long for the reigning Oceania champions to get into their stride, with just six minutes required to unravel the Vanuatuans' game plan and impose their own upon proceedings.

A combination of pinged passes and well-timed angled runs from deep was the key to exposing Malampa goalkeeper Jimmy Lukai to a torrid afternoon's action, and Dae Wook Kim and Ryan de Vries combined in this fashion in the sixth minute, the striker's attempt to curl the ball round the custodian being met by a solid palmed save.

Seconds later, however, City hit the lead. Harry Edge delivered a delightfully weighted ball into the stride of Micah Lea'alafa down the right, from where he delivered a low cross through the legs of Joao Moreira into the stride of de Vries - 1-0.

Moreira then saw a twenty yard volley tipped over the bar by Lukai four minutes later, after which the centre forward went desperately close to getting on the scoresheet with a header from a Fabrizio Tavano cross.

Playing just one up front, Malampa offered little threat to Auckland's goal, although they did produce some enterprising attacking play on occasions. But the local side were on a completely different level to any team the OFC Champions League debutants had encountered before, and it wasn't too long before they made that gulf in class start to tell on the scoreboard.

After Lea'alafa had seen a close-range shot strike two defenders before ricocheting onto the roof of the net, and Moreira had hit the angle with an acute-angled effort in the 25th minute, Angel Berlanga and Alfie Rogers combined to present the Portuguese with a great chance to open his account two minutes later.

Fortune wasn't shining on Moreira, however, the low cross careering across the bows of the striker, who played a part in Auckland's second goal, fired home emphatically in the 31st minute by Lea'alafa after de Vries' industry and Moreira's back-heeled touch engineered the opening.

That was the catalyst for the floodgates to open, with City scoring twice more in the next five minutes. Lea'alafa's tremendous anticipation was the key to his second goal, just two minutes after his first, the speedster swooping on an unsuspecting Ismael Sam to relieve the defender of the ball before rounding the luckless Lukai and slotting home through the legs of a retreating defender.

3-0 became 4-0, but only after Moreira had missed the proverbial sitter, from which was earned a corner which was played short. Tavano's eventual chipped cross was met in fine style by Edge, who rose above Lukai to head home in the 36th minute.

After the 'keeper had stuck out a foot to prevent Lea'alafa from completing a seven-minute hat-trick, Moreira finally got on the scoresheet four minutes before half-time, Berlanga and Darren White combining to bust Malampa's offside trap once more.

Tahitian referee Kader Zitouni wasn't remotely interested when Moreira went down under pressure in the penalty area two minutes later, but awarded City's sixth goal of the afternoon on the stroke of half-time as de Vries tapped home, White and Tavano having done the spadework with a well-flighted pass and driving run respectively.

Auckland allowed seven minutes of the second spell to elapse before going 'Bang! Bang!', half-time substitute Reid Drake's rifled ten yard finish in the 52nd minute supplemented seconds later by an unerring finish from Moreira, Lea'alafa the architect
of City's eighth goal of the afternoon.

Lukai pulled off a one-handed save to prevent Lea'alafa's lobbed finish from reaching its intended destination soon afterwards, while vital defensive blocks thwarted de Vries and the Solomon Islander as the natives' pursuit of goals continued.

Number nine rolled around in the 59th minute, Moreira completing his hat-trick with a tap-in after Berlanga and Drake had combined to good effect, while it was the turn of de Vries to round off his treble six minutes later, White, Tavano and Rogers - the beneficiary of a measured cross-field ball - linking up to set up the goal which gave the scoreboard operator a headache, double figures having been reached.

Upon reaching ten goals, City eased off somewhat, with the highlight of the next ten minutes being an interruption to play caused by a cricketer charging onto the pitch to retrieve a mighty six struck from the wicket on the adjoining field.

The moment of mirth inspired de Vries to notch his fourth goal of the afternoon fourteen minutes from time, the striker taking full advantage of Lukai's untimely stumble in the area.

Remarkably, that was to be the final goal of the game, although City should have scored on at least three more occasions inside the last six minutes to establish a new club record.

But both Lea'alafa and Moreira blazed over when scoring seemed the easier option, while the pair contrived to squander a golden opportunity to make it a round dozen in stoppage time, seconds before the final whistle blew on a game Malampa Revivors will doubtless put down to experience, something which the reigning champions of Oceania boast in abundance.

Auckland:     Zubikarai (D. Drake, 46); White, Kim, Berlanga (Ilich, 62), Rogers; Edge, Bilen (R. Drake, 46), Tavano; Lea'alafa, Moreira, de Vries
Malampa:     Lukai; Huri (Malere, 52), Sam, Timas (Lenga, 44), Iavro (booked, 28); Bai, Edward, Alick, Kileteir, Jacob (Piloe, 64); Batick
Referee:     Kader Zitouni (Tahiti)

City's romp saw them top the group from Western United, who secured a second-placed finish by overcoming Lae City Dwellers 5-3 in a rollicking affair which, as well as eight goals, featured a sending-off which will see the villain sidelined for some time.

Two goals in three minutes, a Henry Fa'arodo penalty and a Paul Wale tap-in, gave Western a two-goal lead after twenty minutes, and when Joachim Waroi rounded goalkeeper Matheson Nasa to make it three nine minutes before half-time, the writing was on the wall for the Papuans.

But an impressive Raymond Gunemba solo strike on the stroke of half-time gave them hope, and when Ken Kepe pulled it back to 3-2 on the hour, it was all on for young and old.

A brilliant Benjamin Totori goal six minutes later - he slalomed through three challenges before slotting home past Nasa - made the game safe for the Solomon Islanders, and their victory was all but confirmed six minutes from time when Lae were reduced to ten men.

Don't expect to see Obert Bika in action any time soon, as you can rest assured he'll have the book thrown at him for striking Tahitian referee Norbert Hauata, who couldn't get his red card out quickly enough in response.

There was still time for Atana Fa'arodo to pot a penalty for Western, before George Debenham wrapped up the scoring for the beaten team in stoppage time to conclude an entertaining affair between two teams whose attacking enterprise was often unhinged by the defensive brittleness of their team-mates.

Lae City Dwellers 3 (R. Gunemba (44), K. Kepe (60), G. Debenham (90)), Western United 5 (H. Fa'arodo (17 pen), P. Wale (20), J. Waroi (36), B. Totori (66), A. Fa'arodo (88 pen))  HT 1-3

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