Auckland City lay down title credentials with 10-man win over Team Wellington
Auckland City have shown title-winning resilience to beat Team Wellington.
The league-leaders went down to 10 men 15 minutes into their 3-1 win at David Farrington Park on Sunday when referee Nick Waldron sent off Frabrizio Tavano for denying Andy Bevin a goal-scoring chance outside the box.
Waldron played a long advantage, which allowed Team Wellington to get a cross in, but called the play back for the foul and to show Tavano his red card.
Auckland coach Ramon Tribulietx offered no opinion of the decision, but said he was pleased with his side's attitude to kick on for the win in windy Wellington conditions.
"It was very difficult conditions, but the spirit and the attitude and that will to win the game was clear from us, I'm very happy with that."
Auckland were already 1-0 up before the red card after a mixup between Team Wellington captain Bill Robertson and goalkeeper Scott Basalaj.
Robertson's back pass got away from Basalaj and all the keeper could do was turn it onto his own post, before Ryan de Vries tapped home the rebound for the simplest of goals.
Team Wellington dominated possession after Tavano's red, but did little with all the ball they had in the first half.
Auckland were organised in defence and sat deep and compact, with Team Wellington unable to break them down. Their best chances of the game all came from outside the box.
Team Wellington coach Jose Figueira said they tried to change things in the second half, but the execution was not where it needed to be.
"It was frustrating, obviously the game was there for us to get something out of it for sure.
"Going into halftime 1-0 down with the man advantage, we came our with a plan but we didn't quite execute it.
"We did create a few chances that we didn't take and them being who they are they take their chances when they come around - they're lethal."
Lethal was right. Emilano Tade's 68th-minute goal was a clinic in counter-attacking football.
De Vries was put clear down the left flank with a great pass from Micah Lea'alafa, before finding Tade on the edge of the box to place a cool finish to the bottom-left corner. It was Auckland's first real chance since they took the lead.
Team Wellington got back into the game with four minutes to go when Ben Harris scored direct from a cross, but the game was killed off by a Tade penalty in stoppage time.
The loss was Team Wellington's second to Auckland this season for an aggregate score of 7-1, but Figueira said they didn't need to panic about the result.
"It's not a disaster or the end of the world, but there has to be lessons for later on down the track for the other big games this season."
With the Wellington Phoenix reserves' 1-1 draw with Eastern Suburbs, Team Wellington are second on the ladder, ahead of Suburbs on goal difference. Auckland have a two-point lead at the top with a game in hand.
The Phoenix took the lead courtesy of a Suburbs own goal halfway through the second half, but Sean Lovemore ensured the points were shared with a goal 15 minutes from fulltime.
AT A GLANCE
Auckland City 3 (Ryan de Vries 11', Emiliano Tade 68' 90' (pen)) Team Wellington 1 (Ben Harris 86'). HT: 1-0.
Eastern Suburbs 1 (Sean Lovemore 75') Wellington Phoenix reserves 1 (own goal 58'). HT: 0-0