A lone goal seven minutes before the end from star recruit Manel Exposito has given Auckland City a crucial 1-0 win over AS Magenta in Noumea, New Caledonia in a postponed OFC O-League match on Monday evening.
With just two rounds remaining the New Zealanders now have a three-point margin at the top of Group B ahead of city rivals Waitakere United, with Tahiti’s AS Tefana and Magenta a further point adrift.
Former All Whites goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley was kept busy for Auckland making a number of important stops with notably Cesar Lolohea and Georges Gope-Fenepej failing to convert good goalscoring opportunities for the home side.
When the match seemingly destined for a stalemate, Spaniard Exposito curled an exquisite free-kick past the Magenta wall and goalkeeper Jean Yan Dounezeck in what proved the decisive moment of the contest.
The penultimate round of matches will take place this weekend with Auckland City hosting Waitakere in a fixture that is now likely to decide the finalist from the group.
Group A remains wide open with all four contestants still capable of claiming top spot. Vanuatu’s Amicale FC lead Fiji’s Lautoka on goal difference with holders Hekari United two points off the pace and Solomon Islanders a further two points behind.