Auckland City 3 Waitakere United 2
Auckland City hopes of a return to the international stage live on after they claimed the New Zealand Football Championships grand final with a clinical win over minor premiers Waitakere United at North Harbour Stadium last night.
The two Auckland clubs will now play in next season's Oceania Nations Cup. Before that Waitakere will play Fijian club Ba in this season's O-League final.
Waitakere can blame nothing but an act of stupidity for having to play the last hour with only 10 players.
Commins Menapi's challenge on Riki van Steeden was a senseless over-the-ball, studs-up despicable tackle which resulted in both players heading for the dressing room.
The cynical will say it was payback for van Steeden's tackle on Daniel Kopricvic 12 days ago but that was no excuse.
There was always going to be needle.
From the time Ben Sigmund was booked inside five minutes, this was no place for faint hearts.
Referee Peter O'Leary wasted no time in calling for calm but still had to blow for 14 first-half fouls - 10-4 against City who also had two players booked and another 10 in the second.
But when the silly stuff was cast aside there was some good football.
After City striker Grant Young had gone close - his curling shot after turning George Suri inside out just failing to sneak inside the far post - City took the lead in the 15th minute.
Suri gave away a needless corner. Sykes curled the ball in, Utting punched out but only as far as Liam Mulrooney on the edge of the penalty from where he sweetly thumped home a volley.
Six minutes later it was tied up.
Jakub Sinkora broke deep but as he was tackled by Jonathan Perry the ball rolled free to City goalkeeper Ross Nicholson who attempted to dribble his way out of trouble. He succeeded only in playing the ball on to Menapi's legs and then turned to watch the ball roll into his unprotected goal.
City broke the impasse five minutes into the second spell when Jonathan Smith and Grant Young provided the build-up before sending Chad Coombes clear. He wasted no time in whipping his cross deftly to Paul Urlovic who provided the clinical finish.
City slammed the door shut with their third goal 13 minutes from time when man of the match Mulrooney got deep and shot on sight. Utting palmed clear to captain Sykes who whipped his first-time left-footer straight at the keeper who could do nothing as the ball hit him en route to the back of the net.
United did have the last say, however, when Jeff Campbell, almost three minutes into added time, gathered just outside the penalty area and fired in a goal as good as any that had gone before.
Too little, too late as City again claimed bragging rights in protecting their unbeaten on-field record against their cross-town rivals.