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ISPS Handa Premiership - Team Wellington upset Navy Blues

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Team Wellington have upset defending champions Auckland City to make the ISPS Handa Premiership Final.

The Jose Figueira-coached team delivered a resolute performance to beat the Navy Blues 3-1 at Kiwitea Street today to set up an enthralling final against Eastern Suburbs next weekend at QBE Stadium in Albany.

Auckland City, who almost completed a perfect season with 17 wins and a draw to manage a record-breaking points tally on their way to the Minor Premiership, came into the semi-final as the favourites but were upset by their old foes on their home turf.

Angus Kilkolly and Jack-Henry Sinclair scored either side of half-time for the visitors before Auckland City captain Angel Berlanga got them within striking distance with 20 minutes to play. Team Wellington scored in injury time through substitute Joel Stevens to secure a historic win.

Sinclair said it was a great performance from Team Wellington as they kept alive their hopes of winning the ISPS Handa Premiership title and also qualifying for the OFC Champions League.

"It was a great battle out there, it is not the end obviously with the final next week, but I am really proud of the boys," said Sinclair. "We defended well in the first 20 minutes and weathered the storm a bit, they had more possession than what we did, but we stuck to our game plan and came out with the win in the end."

Auckland City captain Berlanga, a stand-out for the Navy Blues in defence, was gracious in defeat. He said it was disappointing to miss out on the final after an impressive season.

"That is the format of the league. You can play really well during the season and if you have one off game, then anything can happen. They were the better team today and put their chances away," he said. "We dominated the game but they defended really well and put us under a lot of pressure. They could find the final pass and we couldn’t today."

As expected, the repeat of the last two ISPS Handa Premiership Finals was a tight affair with little separating both teams. Auckland City controlled the game early but could not create any standout scoring opportunities and were forced to take shots from long range.

Team Wellington took the lead against the run of play in the 37th minute. Irishman Eric Molloy took the ball to by-line and his cross hit the hand of Maro Bonsu-Maro. Referee Antony Riley did not hesitate in pointing to the spot. Kilkolly stepped up and found the back of the net when he sent City goalkeeper Enaut Zubikarai the wrong way.

The two-time ISPS Handa Premiership champions took that lead into the break and there was more to come soon after half-time. Sinclair doubled the Team Wellington lead in the 55th minute when he was on hand to produce a great finish on the end of the long-range ball from keeper Scott Basalaj and put the pressure on the home side.

Auckland City had chances to get within striking distance in the final 30 minutes. Bonsu-Maro found Dan Morgan with a great ball but his left foot shot was off target.

Moments later Auckland City made amends when Berlanga could not be contained inside the box and headed home past Basalaj from a corner-kick. It was his first goal for the Navy Blues since the 2011 - 12 campaign and it could not have come at a more important time.

The game opened up in the final 15 minutes as the Navy Blues looked to find the equaliser. In injury time, Team Wellington caught Auckland City on the break and Ross Allen set up former All White Stevens to finish well and put the game to bed.

Team Wellington became the first New Zealand team to defeat Auckland City this season and now have a chance to win the ISPS Handa Premiership Final for a third time.

They have beaten Eastern Suburbs twice in the regular ISPS Handa Premiership season and will take confidence from that record heading into the grand final.

"It does give us confidence [knowing we have beaten them twice], but as we saw today with Auckland City going through the season undefeated, in one-off games anything can happen."

ISPS Handa Premiership Semi-Finals

Eastern Suburbs 1 (Andre de Jong 53’)

Canterbury United Dragons 0

HT: 0-0

Auckland City 1 (Angel Berlanga 69’)

Team Wellington 3 (Angus Kilkolly - pen 37’, Jack-Henry Sinclair 55’, Joel Stevens 90’ +3’)

HT: 0-1

ISPS Handa Premiership Final

Eastern Suburbs v Team Wellington

QBE Stadium, Albany

Sunday 31 March, 2019

Kick off 4.35pm, live on SKY Sport NZ

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