Waitakere United 2, Auckland City 1
Northern 3, Waikato Bay of Plenty 1
Fred Taylor Park, Auckland, October 28 2012
There’s a first time for everything. I have never had to pay to get into domestic women’s football before, but at today’s National Women’s League match between Northern and Waikato Bay of Plenty there was a gate charge of $10. Outrageous! Admittedly they did throw a men’s game in for free – the final of the Charity Cup between Waitakere United and Auckland City. An odd thing happened though. When the curtain raiser finished the ground announcer called it quits and the people running the sausage sizzle packed up and went home. Lots of spectators left too. What were they thinking leaving before the main event? Oh well, their loss.
I will admit, as curtain raisers go, this one wasn’t bad. Auckland City took the early lead in a pulsating encounter thanks to a sublime Ivan Vicelich header in the 7th minute that he rose majestically to nod into the back of the old onion bag. City took that one goal advantage into the break but Waitakere came back early in the second half and equalised thanks to a slightly weird piece of play. United striker George Slefendorfas charged down a goalkeeper Spoonley clearance and the ball ricocheted into an open net. The game looked destined for a penalty shootout after that as neither side looked able to capitalise on their chances. That was until the 89th minute when Maksim Manko nicked Waitakere a first trophy of the new season and a rare derby success for a side that traditionally struggles against their cross town rivals.
When it came to the main event, the first half was end to end with Northern thwarted by the crossbar twice and Waikato’s Helen Collins forcing a brilliant save from Northern goalie Pam Yates. The breakthrough goal was finally struck by Collins towards the end of the first half only for Northern to hit back at the other end only a couple minutes later. Whatever Northern coach Mauro Donoso said to his team at half time must have been good because they came out after the break a completely different side, pressing hard and dominating possession. Waikato were poor by comparison, giving away too much ball and looking very shaky defensively. Once Northern got their second there was only ever going to be one winner.
Waikato, finalists in this competition last season and brimming with players who won the Northern League with Claudelands Rovers, will be very disappointed with that performance. It’s a short competition and they’ll need to improve fast if they are going to be competitive. Northern, champions in 2011, will on the other hand be confident they can repeat that success.
Sadly I can’t tell you who scored for Northern Football because as a good Waikato supporter I was down the opposite end for their three goals and there was no ground announcer to enlighten me. There also appears to be an information gap when it comes to official sources with most of them listing Collins as Waikato’s scorer but none of them stating who the Northern scorers were. One might be forgiven for thinking they got their information from my Twitter feed!!! Anyone who didn’t know better might take from this that the men’s charity cup game was all important and the later women’s match merely an afterthought. I myself would never suggest such things.
Regardless, it’s been a wonderful day that for me started early this morning with two English Premier League games on TV, then these two games live, followed by dinner and preparing this blog post with another EPL match and an A-League game on in the background as we speak. Bliss. This is what Sundays are for!
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.