Eastern Suburbs AFC – Match Report Vs. Auckland City (11/09/2022)

Eastern Suburbs fell 1-0 to Auckland City in the Chatham Cup final. Despite the close scoreline, ES was under more or less constant bombardment from the reigning OFC champions. There are, as I have alluded to previously, no fancy stats easily available for domestic games in New Zealand. But it felt like Auckland City had the ball in the final 3rd for about 80% of the game. Still, Auckland City is about as close to a professional team as you can get in New Zealand football and I think how a player performs against them can help judge how they might perform at a higher level. 

Ratings:

  • A1 – Very good, could play higher
  • A2 – Strong potential to play higher
  • B1 – Good, strong player at level
  • B2 – Potential to be a strong player at level
  • C – Average for the level, rewatch
  • D – Below average in this match

Kelvin Kalua

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: New Zealand
  • Age: 23
  • Date of Birth: 10/07/1999
  • Current Club: Eastern Suburbs
  • Career: Ellerslie AFC
  • Position: Centre-back
  • Secondary Position: Right-back
  • Preferred Foot: Right

Kelvin Kalua played on the right side of a back three in this match and generally looked very solid. Kalua is extremely fast and was able to cover a lot of ground. This helped him to intercept passes and snap up loose balls. He is quite small for a centre-back and there were times when that caused him to lose out in aerial duels. But he did not back down from any challenges and sometimes managed to win aerials through pure scrappiness.

He displayed very strong defensive positioning. This, combined with his pace, helped him to cover for teammates who missed out on a tackle or intervention. But, while he was great at recovering the ball, he did have trouble when isolated 1v1 against a dribbler. He was sent the wrong way by a drop of the shoulder several times. He usually had the pace to recover and because Eastern Suburbs was in such a low block there was usually someone right behind him to intervene anyway. But this could be a real problem at a higher level. With the ball, he looked quite comfortable. He had a good first touch and was able to consistently play outlet passes. He did not play many line-breaking passes but the Eastern Suburbs was pretty clearly trying to advance the ball through the wing backs.

He did venture forwards a little bit and showed some nice combination play with his teammates. Since Auckland City dominated the game there was not much of a chance to evaluate his attacking play. But he has played a right-back quite a bit in his career and some of his goal and assists totals from previous seasons are quite respectable. So I think there is reason to believe he has something to offer going forward. 

Rating A1

Kalua already has three senior appearances for New Zealand so it’s not surprising that he is a strong player at this level. I don’t think he is destined for a big five league or anything but he could be a solid player for a smaller club in Europe. 

Aaryan Raj

Player Profile:

  • Age: 19
  • Date of Birth: 04/05/2003
  • Nationality: New Zealand 
  • Current Club: Eastern Suburbs
  • Career: Eastern Suburbs (Y)
  • Position: Centre-Back
  • Preferred Foot: Right

My eye was drawn to Aaryan Raj because he’s huge and has played a lot of minutes at age 19. Unfortunately, this is pretty much where the positives ended as he looked well below the level of Auckland City in this match. Raj often stepped out of the backline to try and make interventions higher up the field. But he didn’t react quickly enough to the play developing to have a serious impact.

Despite his towering height, he was not particularly strong in the air, mainly because he struggled with being in the right place at the right time to win headers. His first touch was not good and sometimes it forced him to hoof the ball clear when a player with better control could have played a controlled outlet pass. He made one or two decent progressive passes but on the whole, his passing was not consistent enough. He also almost chipped his own keeper while not under any pressure and that’s just not good. That’s about all there is to say. That’s about all there is to say.

Rating – D

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