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Battle of the bays

Bay Olympic 2, East Coast Bays 4
Olympic Park, Auckland, April 6 2013

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Two clubs don’t need to be neighbours to be fierce derby rivals. As Real Madrid and Barcelona, Manchester United and Liverpool or Juventus and Internazionale can attest, sometimes derbies are as much about two dominant teams as they are about which side of the river you live on.

The last three seasons of Northern Premier League have been won by two different clubs. East Coast Bays took the honours in 2010, while in 2011 and 2012 it was Bay Olympic’s turn with their vanquished foes consigned to bridesmaid status. Over those three years, a pretty intense rivalry has been built on a solid foundation of Bay Olympic dominance. The New Lynn club has only lost six times out of eighteen clashes between the two and last season they managed to defeat the North Shore side three times including an acrimonious yet thrilling 4-3 victory in Round 2 of the Chatham Cup.

It is therefore fitting that these two worthy rivals kicked off the opening game of the 2013 edition of the Northern Premier League today. Bay Olympic going for a hat trick of titles yet potentially set to struggle with some key personnel changes. East Coast Bays on the other hand with a settled squad potentially poised to seize back the crown.

After today’s game however I was left with the impression that if the performance of the two sides is anything to go by, this year’s title race is wide open. It was a bit nervy and rusty as you might expect from a season opener, but it was also just a little on the dull side as for most of the game neither team looked particularly menacing on attack. East Coast Bays seemed fairly happy to let the home side come at them, while Bay Olympic didn’t really look like seriously troubling the score sheet.

His pre-half-time counter-attacking goal aside, the match never really came alive until Kelly Escolme’s second made it 2-0 to the visitors inside the last 20 minutes. Seemingly unencumbered by their skipper Craig Wylie being shown the red card for a second bookable offence, Bay Olympic hit straight back at the other end to make it 2-1 and bring the home fans some hope but only a few minutes after that, Eric Seekie restored the visitors’ two goal advantage. Then, by this stage knocking on the door of injury time, Baptiste Azame put the final result beyond doubt. Bay Olympic still had a consolation goal left in them but it was East Coast Bays doing all the celebrating.

A thoroughly deserved victory for last season’s runners up, but not one that should send too many shivers down the spines of their other rivals. Time will tell if there is much improvement in either side but my perception was that Bay Olympic have regressed from last year, while East Coast Bays picked up roughly where they left off. Their title hopes may depend on other sides not having made any great leaps forward.

It’s going to be a fascinating year.

Categories: NZ Northern Men's Premier

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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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