Nikao Sokattak’s Silas Trego tussles for possession against Auckland City. Photo: Phototek (OFC MEDIA)/22081108
New Zealand’s Auckland City overcame a first-half scare to beat the Cook Islands’ Nikao Sokattak 4-1 to make it three wins from three in Group B at the OFC Champions League 2022.
Stephen Willis’ goal briefly threatened an upset before a brace from Gerard Garriga, topped up by goals for Joe Lee and Matt Ellis ensured top spot and a meeting with Central Coast FC of the Solomon Islands in Sunday’s semi-final (NZ time).
expected the New Zealanders peppered the Nikao Sokattak goal with shots in the
opening period, the Cook Islands side happy to put 11 players behind the ball
and hold out for an upset.
Tade hit the post, among several chances for the Argentine striker, while Christian
Gray, Garriga and Mario Ilich also came close before Nikao scored a goal to
make their journey to New Zealand worthwhile.
Harmon’s initial corner-kick delivery was cleared but persistence from Mark
Leito allowed captain Willis the chance to fire home a memorable opener.
for the Cook Islands side their lead was short-lived. The tournament favourites
equalised almost immediately, Garriga hitting a rasping half-volley beyond the
despairing Tahiri Elikana.
City put any hopes of Nikao staging an incredible comeback to bed early in the
second-half. First, Garriga fired home his second after latching on to Ilich’s
through ball before Lee added a third from close-range.
made it 4-1, putting the finishing touch on a slick passing move from the
goalkeeper Elikana kept the score at four with a couple of fine saves late on
but Auckland City continued their clean sweep into the final four while Nikao
Sokattak exit with their heads held high.