Hawke's Bay United staged a surprise smash and grab when they snatched a late 1-1 draw with Auckland City FC at QBE Stadium last night.

The Bay sat in and defended deep for vast tracts of the match but pinched an equaliser in the 85th minute to earn a point from their first game of the season.

Itt was an outcome that had looked unlikely when Micah Lea'alafa opened the scoring with a stunning volley after just 11 minutes.

Auckland then enjoyed plenty of possession but struggled to prise open a stubborn Hawke's Bay defence who can thank goalkeeper Josh Hill who produced a superb double save in the second half from Ryan De Vries and Joao Moreira.

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The longer the match went on there was a growing sense Hawke's Bay might be capable of nicking an equaliser and their hope became reality when Kohei Matsumoto dispossessed Jacob Spoonley some 35 metres from goal before lofting the ball into an empty net.

The goal was met with delight by the small Hawke's Bay supporting contingent and for a brief moment the momentum in the match swung the visitors way.

It was a shock to the system for Auckland City FC who tried desperately to regain the lead with time their enemy.

The Navy Blues last real chance came when Hill turned Lea'alafa's powerful header from a De Vries cross over the bar in additional time.

Auckland City FC coach Ramon Tribulietx was disappointed in with the outcome but adamant his team would bounce back.

"We knew if Hawke's Bay were to score it would come from a little slip-up or a counter-attack.

"There were a couple of rebounds in that moment and they've managed to score. We had a lot of ball but maybe we didn't create enough chances, that's the reality.

"As a team Hawke's Bay defended really well but we've got to be positive, this is football, we tried, we played a good game of football, and hopefully we learn from this for next time.

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"Josh Hill had a great game for them, Hawke's Bay prevented us from penetrating and playing inside. And we tried to readjust a couple of things in the second half, the pitch didn't help our game, but no excuses.

"Sometimes in football you win, you draw or lose, this is the game. We have to make sure we understand how it happened and c'est la vie."

While the disappointment at the final whistle was palpable, Tribulietx said his team would learn from the result and recover quickly. Outwith the mistake for the goal, Tribulietx was happy with much of his team's performance.

"Of course our players are going to be disappointed we dominated the entire game. I don't know what the possession statistics say, of course they don't win you games, you have to put the ball in the net, but I think we played a very complete game because they did not have many counter attacks.

"When we lost the ball we pressed it straight away and we won a lot of balls back. So I think we did really well in all moments of the game in possession and transition.

"We almost kept them scoreless, but this is only part of the game - you only need one attack to score a goal and there it is, one point for Hawke's Bay. Thats the nature of the game, we have to learn from this, understand whats happened and move on," he said.

Auckland City FC now face a 10 day break before their next match, an away game at the Wellington Phoenix on November 22 at Newtown Park.