Falcons fall at final hurdle
Auckland City have successfully defended the ASB National youth league title with a 3-0 victory over the Nelson Falcons.
Auckland were simply too good for the New Zealand King Salmon Nelson Marlborough Falcons. The southern conference champions, in just their second year as a franchise, struggled to keep possession.
Two second half goals from Tom Konusi put the match beyond Nelson as the technically gifted Auckland team always looked in control.
In the sixth minute Regi Murati picked the ball off Sam Maxwell on the right corner of the box and deftly chipped goal keeper Coey Turipa as it came down just inside the top left corner.
Murati made the difficult skill completion look much simple and gave Auckland the perfect start. All the chances were with Auckland were with Auckland in the first half as the boys from the City of sails used the wind to constantly pressure the Falcons defence.
A cracking free kick from Mario Ilich was kept out by an equally strong save in the top right corner. Turipa was then called on to parry away a rocket strike from Moses Dyer from 25 meters out. City bossed the midfield easily picking out passes as Nelson were forced to use short passes along the pitch.
Auckland's Mario Ilich was a constant road block, his physical presence winning balls and helping to release pace like Murati through the playmaking skills and vision of Ross McPhie.
Somewhat frustrated that the wealth of possession and chances had them only one goal up, Auckland City went to half time following consecutive bookings for Stephen Ashby-Peckham and Dyer.
The worst possible start to the second half came when an early attack in the Bo's resulted in a penalty. Turipa went the wrong way and Tom Konusi doubled the lead as Auckland led 2-0 inside the first half.
The urgency finally for arrived for the Falcons in the 65th minute. Substitutions and an increase in intensity from senior players like Fox Slotemaker, Ryan Stewart and Furkan Kokcu helped to push the Falcons forward and the game opened up as a result.
Josh Lis and Stewart produced the Falcons' best chances, forcing good saves from the City keeper. But the Falcons couldn't produce the goal that was threaten to break the game open. Konusi then made the game safe when he scored following a host of shots with Turipa already having saved and on the ground as a result.
When the final whistle went Auckland City celebrated with the trophy for the second consecutive year.