Soccer: Domestic match set for Eden Park debut

By Terry Maddaford

The match is set to be a curtainraiser to the fixture between the Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory. Photo / Thinkstock
The match is set to be a curtainraiser to the fixture between the Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory. Photo / Thinkstock

In a first for domestic soccer, the great rivalry between Auckland City and Waitakere United is headed for Eden Park.

The ASB Premiership match, scheduled for February 2, is set to be played as a curtainraiser to the Hyundai A-League fixture between the Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory.

With Shane Smeltz in the Perth line-up there will be plenty of interest in that game and the clashes between Auckland City and Waitakere have always been crowd-pullers.

Auckland City, preparing for another tilt at Fifa's Club World Cup, have pulled off a major off-season coup in signing last season's ASB Premiership player of the year Chris Bale from Waitakere.

City will again be coached by Ramon Tribulietx who will take the reins alone after working with Aaron McFarland for the past couple of seasons.

City expect most of their Spanish players to return. Albert Riera has been playing winter football with Central United and while Manel Exposito, Angel Berlanga and Ivan Diaz have been back in Spain they are expected to return with a question mark only over Diaz.

City's only loss at this stage appears to be All Whites and Under-23 Olympic international Ian Hogg who is set to join Portland Timbers in the US Major Soccer League.

Since his involvement in the Olympic campaign, Hogg, 22, has trialled with Crystal Palace but has now signed with Portland and once the details are confirmed is set to join them for the remainder of the season.

Waitakere have yet to name their coach but will do so within a week. With the O-League put back until the middle of next year, the ASB Premiership season will be more compact this summer.

After the season-opening Charity Shield fixture, between Waitakere and Auckland City, the Premiership will start the following weekend, November 3-4, with a double-header in Auckland.

The top four teams from last season will be in action with City at home to Canterbury United on November 3 and Waitakere meeting Team Wellington the following day in a replay of last season's grand final.

The delay in playing O-League matches until later in the year rather than being interwoven with domestic play here, opens the door for clubs, including New Zealand representatives Auckland City and Waitakere, to bring in players on short term contracts as they chase a place in next year's Club World Cup.


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- NZ Herald

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