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Two second-half goals have condemned Southern United to a fourth consecutive loss.
Southern led at halftime, but was ultimately edged 2-1 by Auckland City at Kiwitea Street yesterday.
The key period came through the middle of the second half, when Auckland finally broke down Southern"s defence.
An own goal by Southern defender Erik Panzer in the 58th minute allowed the hosts to draw level.
That was doubled seven minutes later when Fabrizio Tavano found the goal on a deflection from a free kick.
It was a blow Southern could not recover from, and while disappointed with the result, coach Paul O'Reilly felt the performance was still strong.
After a strong start from Auckland — in which David Brown hit the post in the 15th minute — Southern worked its way into the game.
It began to threaten on the counterattack and after two good saves from Auckland keeper Enaut Zubikarai, Southern went ahead.
Auckland defender Angel Berlanga turned the ball over to Southern"s Abdulla Al-Kalisy, who set up striker Garbhan Coughlan to score his sixth goal of the season.
Just after the break Southern's Ben Deeley then forced what O"Reilly described as a "world class" save from Zubikarai.
O'Reilly felt it was a key moment in the game, and on another day could have gone in — with the side possibly pulling off a win as a result. The loss was Southern"s fourth in a row, although the last three of those have come against the league"s top three teams at present.
It remains on 10 points — 10 outside the top four and in a tie for seventh place following Waitakere United's 2-1 upset over Team Wellington.
Auckland City 2 (Panzer (OG) 58’, Fabrizio Tavano 65’)
Southern United 1 (Garbhan Coughlan 39’)
Halftime: 1-0 Southern