Within the next fortnight we should know the draw for the [INSERT SPONSOR HERE] New Zealand Football Championship. With Team Wellington taking the title out of Auckland for the first time last season, and three new teams joining the league, it’s already looking like it’s going to be a cracker.
In the shade of the shed, after a few beers and handshakes and smiles and how are ya’s, the green of the pitch and the dappled shade of the trees – punctuated by ‘YELLOW YELLOW’ and repeated bucket thumping – there are few nicer places to be on a Sunday afternoon than Kiwitea Street.
With Central’s José Manuel Figueira off to coach defending champions Team Wellington, in effect this game was a look at three components of this years summer league. Eastern Suburbs have made some interesting signings, not least Auckland City old boy Tim Payne and acrobatic WaiBOP keeper Zac Speedy. Up against a Central side featuring Takuya Iwata, Dae Wook Kim, Emiliano Tade – there were no shortage of National League players on display.
Putting the future aside, the present saw Figueira’s side start the game top of the table with 43 points. In third, Suburbs, with a game in hand were on 38 points. Sandwiched in-between were Three Kings United, whose cup run puts them 39 points with two games in hand. It’s tight at the top and this was a must win for both sides.
Central conceded early. Like, really early. Like, Stevie hadn’t made it down from the bar early. Damien Mosquera shaped to cross, the Central defence readied itself for defensive headers, but he slipped the ball through to the penalty spot and the onrushing Charl Compaan. Drake couldn’t stop the shot.
A word about Danyon Drake’s positioning. From the shed, Matthew and I spent time watching the Central keeper prowling around about fifteen to twenty yards outside his box. In fact, for the majority of the first half, he was playing a sort of Beckenbauer meets Jose Luis Chilavert role. At one point he received the ball INSIDE the centre circle. Blimey.
That’s partly to do with Central’s high pressing game, and Suburbs’ willingness to defend deep. They created chances, but Zac Speedy looked comfortable when called upon. Suburbs had an effort ruled out for offside and Central kept almost scoring but never quite looking like they could.
Half Time – Central United 0 – 1 Eastern Suburbs
I failed to get to the bar at half-time, instead distracted by Mr McIlroy astride the fence next to the legendary Bucketman. I tell you what, he’s no fool, you get a great view from there. As the firecrackers went off and the teams returned, I was still there – leaning against the rail in the sunshine.
Suburbs had gotten wise to Drake’s forays into the midfield and attempted a couple of chips. The Central keeper stayed a bit closer to his line after that.
Central looked like scoring and eventually did. Emiliano Tade had been slowly heating up in the spring sunshine and eventually got on the end of a ball at the edge of the area. His shot, to Speedy’s right, gave the keeper little chance. All square.
While the YELLOW YELLOW’s were in the ascendancy, Suburbs continued to break out making good use of raking diagonal crosses to their tricky winger, Denver Macdonald. Armin Pasagic also drew praise from the crowd, his imposing presence and neat feet causing more than a few problems for the home team.
Suburbs looked confident and accurate, technically impressive but also brave as well – I can see them causing a few established National League teams a lot of trouble.
Having blazed a chance over the bar, Central introduced Vincent Pineau whose all action midfield play injected a much needed urgency into the game. The winning goal came from the bubbling Tade, who bamboozled a defender on the way to scoring from an acute angle. Waiheke United may have the numbers, but when it comes to Argentinian quality, Central’s the place to be.
Final Score: Central United 2 – 1 Eastern Suburbs
Central go up to 46 points, 7 points clear of Three Kings in second. Three Kings have three games in hand though. Suburbs may just be too far out of touch to challenge for the title, but are definitely in the race for second place.
At this time of the year there’s a lot of talk about signings and such. My favourite news heard today is Eastern Suburbs apparently playing their home games in the National League at Bill McKinlay. I love that ground, and reckon it’d be a quality venue. Handy for the train station too. Bring it on.
Categories: NZ Northern Men's Premier
John Palethorpe lives in South Auckland which is very far away from Fratton Park and Champion Hill. Having been told there was no football in New Zealand, he was delighted to find that there is.