Hamilton Wanderers concede four first-half goals in big defeat to Auckland City
The only positive for Hamilton Wanderers is that it could have been much, much worse.
Down 4-0 to Auckland City at halftime of their Stirling Sports Premiership match at Porritt Stadium on Wednesday evening, the locals would have been fearing an absolute pasting.
As it turned out, it was still pretty bad, but the visitors only added one more in the second half, grabbing a 5-0 win to take back up the highway to Auckland.
Joao Moreira had put them in front with barely a minute on the clock, sauntering through open space to the edge of the box, left with all the time in the world to fire a shot past Matt Oliver in Wanderers' goal.
You never want to concede early, but especially not if you're the underdog, and the story of the first goal became the story of the first half - City were given plenty of space to play in, and their superior skill level was on full display as a result.
Emiliano Tade scored their second goal in the 24th minute, finishing from the top of the box after Ryan de Vries cut the ball back from the byline, and then set up the third, controlling a ball lofted over Wanderers defence sublimely before teeing up de Vries to his left, who made no mistake firing home.
Moreira then added a second as the first half came to a close, curling the ball goalwards in spectacular fashion from the left-hand side of the box, leaving Wanderers hanging their heads as they headed for the sheds, having mustered nothing themselves, denied time and space just as much as they had afforded it to their opponents.
After the break, they were better. More organised, and more diligent in their pressing, though, of course, City no longer had the same urgency, withdrawing Moreira and de Vries early in the spell, and seemingly content to see the game out.
But while Wanderers improved, they still allowed City plenty of ball, and eventually the visitors were able to make their hosts pay, when Oliver was judged to have handled the ball outside of the box, and Tade swept home the ensuing free kick in the 73rd minute.
It took until the 89th minute for Wanderers to muster their first clear-cut chance of the match, though teenager striker Jake Mechell, on as a substitute, could only send his shot across goal from right in front.
Down the other end, Oliver was called on to make a couple of fine saves in the dying stages, ensuring his team finished with a bit of pride remaining.
These two teams now head to Auckland for a rematch on Sunday at Kiwitea St, where Wanderers will be hoping they can begin as they finished this one, and not as they started it.
City now sit top of the Stirling Sports Premiership table on goal difference, with one game in hand, while Wanderers remain eighth.
AT A GLANCE
Hamilton Wanderers 0 lost to Auckland City 5 (Moreira 2, Tade 2, de Vries)