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Manukau City 1, Papatoetoe AFC 1 AET (Manukau won 4-3 on penalties)
Walter Massey Park, Auckland, July 7 2012

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Probably the most exciting game of local football I’ve seen all year took place at South Auckland’s Walter Massey Park today as local rivals Manukau City and Papatoetoe AFC squared up against each other in the Chatham Cup round of 16. Papatoetoe are currently mid table in Division 1 of the Northern Regional Football League, while Manukau City, newly promoted from the conference, sit second from bottom in Division 2. But such is the magic of cup competitions that form, reputation and standings are all meaningless. Lower ranked teams often rise to the occasion and thus anything is possible. It certainly was today.

Papatoetoe came out strongly, holding the lion’s share of possession in the first half and looking every bit as dominant as you might expect. They created a number of chances but Manukau’s defence held largely solid as the home side relied more on the long ball as their primary attacking option. It looked like we would go into half time locked scoreless but right on the stroke of 45 minutes Manukau’s concentration lapsed and they conceded the goal that most in attendance must have thought would be the beginning of the end.

But instead of throwing in the towel as many a lesser team would do in such situations, the team in black and white came out fighting in the second half and put a lot of pressure on a seemingly complacent Papatoetoe. The pressure finally told lateish in the second half when a hand ball inside the box resulted in a penalty. The first attempt was saved by the Papatoetoe keeper but he was adjudged to have come off his line and the retake was slotted to force an additional 30 minutes.

It was then first blood to the visitors once again in extra time as Manukau went down to ten men due to a straight red card for a late tackle near the sideline by the technical areas. Tempers looked to be momentarily flaring between the two squads but things were cooled down competently by the officials and what was remaining of the 120 minutes passed without further incident.

The resulting penalty shootout was something of a microcosm of the game. Papatoetoe had the honour of the first shot, which was duly converted. But Manukau’s first was saved and once again the visitors had the advantage. However Manukau didn’t miss again. Papatoetoe’s third missed right and fourth was skied over the bar. As their fifth penalty was driven home by their goalkeeper, the Manukau faithful flooded the pitch and engulfed their gladiators. A magnificent triumph for the little football club that could.

The quarter finals are the first Chatham Cup round in which clubs from all regions go into one nationwide pot. Manukau City could find themselves playing anywhere from Dunedin to Auckland in what will be the biggest day the club has seen since their previous semi-final appearance way back in 1987. It really couldn’t happen to a nicer club. There is a friendly and welcoming multicultural atmosphere around Manukau City AFC that you only get South Side. They thoroughly deserve their place amongst the big boys and as for their chances of further extending their run – bet against them at your peril!

Categories: NZ Chatham Cup

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

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