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Swans up!

Forrest Hill Milford 2, Glenfield Rovers 2 AET (FHM won 4-3 on penalties)
North Harbour Stadium, Auckland, September 11 2016

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With all my excitement over the Chatham Cup, you might have thought I had forgotten that there were two cup finals on yesterday. Well, no fear of that. Even if I wasn’t absolutely committed to ensuring the women’s game gets equal prominence with the blokes on this blog, anyone who did the honourable thing and watched both games would have to agree that the Knockout Cup was every bit as exciting as the men’s final if not more!

It was a little bit weird, having Birkenhead United in one final and their arch enemies Glenfield in the other. I often wondered as both clubs shared the social media graphic advertising the two games, if a few hands trembled as they hovered over the send button before sharing their least favourite team logo in all creation.

It was certainly true that as Birkenhead United fans started filling the ground as the Chatham Cup kick-off loomed, they were all cheering for Forrest Hill as if their lives depended on it. And likewise, those Glenfield supporters who stayed on were well and truly in the Waitakere camp.

I myself don’t buy into that nonsense.

Having said that though, I am on the Twitter record predicting an FHM win. I certainly thought the TAB odds of $4.00 for the team in black to get the job done were a long way out of kilter. And when I saw the team sheets before the game, that impression only solidified. Glenfield looked very thin on the ground with Katie Rood, Jess Innes and Liz Milne standing out above the rest, while FHM boasted some experienced hands like Tessa Berger and CJ Bott mixed with age-group talent like Tayla Christiensen, Issy Coombes, Emma Rolston and others. My advice to the TAB was this – change your odds.

Despite that, Glenfield have had the wood on their local rivals in cup competitions over the past couple of years. They beat them in the quarter-finals last year and the final the year before that, and vast swathes of this game looked to be heading much the same way. Glenfield captain Liz Milne gave her side the half-time lead with a well taken goal before twenty minutes were up on the clock. But five minutes into the second half Tessa Berger scored an absolute stunner of a long range goal over the outstretched fingers of Alice Noyer and the equilibrium was restored – a state of affairs that would last until the referee blew for full time and an extra half hour was in store.

Glenfield once again drew first blood in bonus football territory with another Liz Milne goal that was equal to the earlier Berger effort in its gloriousness. It looked for a brief moment that the black and gold (wearing red on this occasion) had pulled another one out of the bag over their rivals but Emma Rolston had other ideas – levelling things back up just eight minutes after Milne’s strike.

There were chances spurned at both ends throughout the game, but the spectacular defensive interventions of Tessa Berger, particularly during extra time, really made her stand out and fully deserving of her MVP award – without those tackles Glenfield absolutely would have won the game without even mentioning her stunning goal. And the same goes for FHM keeper Emily Couchman, whose desperate right footed tackle one on one with Dayna Stevens towards the end of extra time also saved the match for her side.

Into the dreaded death strikes we went and players from both sides missed penalties that could have won the match, but again Couchman came up with the goods when it mattered. Tayla Christiensen coolly slotted the winning penalty and made sure that both finals saw names engraved on the respective trophies that had never been there before.

What a match! What a day!

Congratulations Forrest Hill Milford – New Zealand Women’s Knockout Cup champions for 2016.

Categories: NZ Women's KO Cup

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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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