Team Wellington survive Auckland City comeback to win national men's football final

Team Wellington signed off on their time in the national mens football league in style on Sunday, beating Auckland City 4-2 at North Harbour Stadium to claim their third title in the space of five years.
Attacking midfielder Andy Bevin took home the Steve Sumner Trophy as the pemain of the match after opening the scoring in the 15th minute then sealing the win in the 69th.

Right wingback Jack-Henry Sinclair was the other key figure for the side from the capital, marauding down that flank at will and starting and finishing an exquisite attacking move that involved all of their front five to put them 2-0 up after half an hour.

Team Wellington celebrate Andy Bevins opening goal in the ISPS Handa Mens Premiership final.

His back heel just crept over the line and left City needing to dig deep in order to end the current era of the national league which has now come to an end after 17 summer-centric seasons on a high.

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They were missing All White Logan Rogerson, who would have had a field day making the most of the space in behind Team Wellingtons wingbacks, but wasnt even in the country, having left for Europe and professional football on Tuesday, two days after the original date for the decider.

In his absence it was on club legend Emiliano Tade to step up, in what was just his third match back from a calf injury that had kept him sidelined for most of the season, and step up he did, first by winning and converting a penalty, then by threading a pass through a packed defence to set up Dylan Manickum.

Bevin had put Team Wellington in front by following up when City goalkeeper Cam Brown saved a penalty attempt by Hamish Watson that came after Sinclair was fouled on one of his many runs into the box.

Emiliano Tade was influential for Auckland City in the ISPS Handa Mens Premiership final.

But his hard work and the hard work of their front five, who were on the same wavelength from the opening whistle was undone by halftime, and it was effectively a blank slate for both teams as the second half began.

Tade had a chance to give City the lead for the first time eight minutes in, but sent his shot straight at Team Wellington goalkeeper Zac Jones, and it was almost immediately after that that Ollie Whyte restored their lead, thundering home a shot from the edge of the box after being teed up by Watson.

City were still in the contest at that point, but once Bevin headed home at a corner with 20 minutes to play, they were left with a mountain to climb, and though they won a second penalty in added time, Tade chipped it into the crossbar then gave away a free kick when he sent the rebound goalward, as no-one else had touched the ball in between.

Team Wellingtons triumph means they finish their 17-year run in domestic football with three titles to their name, this one sitting alongside those from 2016 and 2017, where they also beat City in the decider.

Auckland City celebrate their second goal in the ISPS Handa Men's Premiership final.

Though City weren't able to sign off with a title, they will live on in the Northern League, having joined forces with their sister club, Central United, but this was the end of the road for Team Wellington, at least in domestic football, and their players will now disperse to a number of clubs, mostly in the Central League.

The new winter-centric, club-based national league system introduced by New Zealand Football last December has three regional leagues the third being the Southern League feeding into a 10-team National League Championship that will run from October until December and consist of a round-robin before culminating in a final.

ISPS Handa Mens Premiership final​

Team Wellington 4 (Andy Bevin 15, 69, Jack-Henry Sinclair 31, Ollie Whyte 55) Auckland City 2 (Emiliano Tade pen 35, Dylan Manickum 42). HT: 2-2


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