Auckland City 3, Team Wellington 0
Kiwitea Street, Auckland, February 15 2015
It’s crunch time in the ASB Premiership, and after today’s fixtures there was good news and bad news.
I’ll get the bad news out of the way first.
Today’s top of the table clash at Kiwitea Street was a virtual Minor Premiership decider with all the pressure on Team Wellington to avoid defeat and stop Auckland City getting away on them and forging a four point lead with a game in hand. The game had promise. The team in yellow beat the third best team in the world 4-0 in Wellington back in November, so should have been full of confidence going into this match. But alas, instead they went down with a whimper.
Despite competing quite well in the first half, missing a penalty, and being quite unlucky to be down 2-0 at the break, they capitulated in the second half and despite only conceding one further goal, one got the sense we could have played the game into the middle of next week and the visitors still never would have scored. They gave away too much possession far too cheaply to be within a bull’s roar.
Auckland City on the other hand looked right at their very best. All class, particularly in the midfield, their possession game simply strangled the life out of their opponents so it would be a crime to take anything away from that.
However for Team Welington, the harsh fact is two of this season’s three losses, to WaiBOP United and now Auckland City, have come in their last three games. They will need to lift during the run home to ensure they don’t start to be labelled with the dreaded chokers tag. They have led this competition for a vast chunk of it but now all of a sudden their chances of taking the minor premiership look slim to non-existent. They’ll need to pick up momentum going into the playoffs and the O-League. Most importantly they need to find the confidence to be afraid of nobody – particularly Auckland City FC.
So that was all a bit disappointing.
But, and there is a massive BUT, the good news is other results around the various other traps this weekend now make the rest of this completion look rather juicy indeed, and picking the remaining two ASB Premiership semi-final positions still up for grabs looks to be in and of itself something of a fascinating exercise. With Waitakere losing to Hawkes Bay and Wanderers dispatching Canterbury (a feat anyone who watched the young ‘uns play last week will be far from surprised by) the table now looks like this:
The biggest shock for me is how much of a hole Canterbury United have dug for themselves. They are a better side than their table position suggests although with only 4 points separating third from second bottom, this race is wide open and the runs home of the various contenders underline this quite nicely:
Auckland City: WaiBOP (away), Canterbury United (home), Waitakere (home), Weenix (away)
Team Wellington: Southern United (away), Wanderers (home), Waitakere (away)
Hawkes Bay: Weenix (away), Southern (away), WaiBOP (home), Canterbury (home)
Waitakere: WaiBOP (home), Canterbury (away), Auckland City (away), Team Wellington (home)
WaiBOP: Auckland City (home), Waitakere (away), Weenix (home), Hawkes Bay (away), Southern (home)
Wanderers: Team Wellington (away), Southern (away)
Weenix: Hawkes Bay (home), WaiBOP (away), Canterbury (home), Auckland City (home)
Canterbury: Auckland City (away), Waitakere (home), Weenix (away), Hawkes Bay (away)
I think we can safely conclude that you can stick a fork in Southern, they are done, and likewise positions one and two now belong Auckland City and Team Wellington in that order. The battle is for the other two semi-final spots.
Wanderers only having two games left is decidedly unhelpful for them. Looking at the above, the easiest run home for the other contenders appears to belong to Hawkes Bay, and by all accounts they are playing well enough to find themselves in the playoff places. That third position is theirs to lose. Much will depend on WaiBOP’s next two fixtures. If they can somehow squeeze 3 points out of them they will be looking very good indeed, although that is no easy task. Unless they can pull off a miracle mid-week, their game at Fred Taylor Park holds the key. The rest of Waitakere’s draw is very tough. If WaiBOP stumble, my money is still on Canterbury to, unlike on their trip to Cambridge, be the ones to come from behind and get the last laugh. But I’d be interested to hear other people’s predictions?
One thing’s for sure, we are in for a rather curious few weeks indeed!
Categories: NZ Men'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.