New Zealand Development 5, Capital Football 1
North Harbour Stadium, Auckland, November 30 2014
Last time these two sides met, it was one of the most thrilling 0-0 draws I have ever seen. So you can imagine my excitement as I headed along State Highway 18, the motorway that connects Auckland’s West with its North, towards this ASB Women’s League semi-final. If even a fraction of the shots that bounced off crossbars and uprights alike three weeks ago had gone in yesterday, this would have been an even more thrilling affair. As is so often the case with rematches however, lightning did not strike twice and this was sadly a bit of an anti-climax in a way as Capital had what I am sure they would acknowledge was a poor game, gifting their opponents far too much possession in their own half and eventually finding themselves well beaten despite a brief rally at the end of the first half.
Development grabbed the early advantage right in the very first minute of play through Tayla Christensen and never really looked like relinquishing it – that was, until they did relinquish it not long before the break… The national age group rep side had been absolutely dominating most of the play, taking the lion’s share of possession and looking every bit the finalists in waiting until some fancy Michaela Robertson footwork lured Claudia Bunge into a rash challenge right on the edge of the penalty area. Julia Baldwin slotted the resulting spot kick to make the half time score 1-1 which really did flatter the Wellingtonians. Development must have been shaking their heads wondering how on Earth they didn’t manage to take a lead of at least one goal into the sheds with them.
Capital looked a touch sharper in the early exchanges of the second half than they had in the first. A few convertible opportunities came their way but it was an error at the back that cost them their chance to take any advantage of the momentum shift. Instead, the ‘big mo’ was handed back to Development on a plate when Cushla Lichtwark failed to deal with a Daisy Cleverley corner that slipped right through her grasp and after a bit of a goal mouth scramble was poked home by Martine Puketapu. Paige Satchell then doubled the lead almost straight after the restart, and Puketapu had her brace only a couple of minutes after that. Just like that, for all intents and purposes, that was Capital done for the year – destroyed in the space of five minutes or so. Neither Development nor Puketapu were done yet though, the Three Kings United player completed her hat trick with around ten minutes of the match to spare.
This leaves us with a very interesting final in a week’s time in Christchurch with yesterday’s victors taking on Mainland Pride. It’s tempting to say that Mainland will be the favourites, and well they might be, but write Development off at your peril. Over the course of this competition they have been steadily, how do you say… developing! Which is good considering that is what they are meant to be there to do! We now have national age-group/development sides in all our major summer football leagues – with Wanderers SC playing this role in both the ASB Premiership and the ASB Youth League. The ladies have already made history by being the first such team to make the playoffs. Can they go one better and be the first to win a final? They should back themselves. They have some very good players who have now played together a lot but their main weakness might well turn out to be their small squad. They have only had two subs on the bench for the last couple or three weeks so they could potentially be quite tired. Mainland on the other hand have enjoyed a week off and should be well rested. That, I suspect, may well prove the difference.
I’m certainly very much looking forward to flying down to Christchurch for the final (brag brag). My prediction – 3-1 to Mainland – after extra time! What’s yours? Post it in the comments below and if more than 5 people make predictions I’ll give an in-the-back-of-the.net t-shirt to whoever gets closest! In the event of a tie I will award the prize to whomever I feel like giving it to.
Categories: NZ Women's National League
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.