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Tilting at windmills

Wellington United (Sapphires) 3
Brooklyn Northern United 0

Capital Women’s Premier League
Sunday 28 May 2017
Newtown Park

Words by Phil Clayton.
Photographs (and their captions) of this match by Michael Welsh (Dr yomcat shoots).

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The Dutch-influenced Wellington United club’s second team the Sapphires play in Women’s Capital Premier, while their first team (Diamonds) play in the W-League. BNU’s eponymous suburb features tiles of the nearby windmill turbine on the footpath. Neither are eligible for promotion as a Wellington United already have that team in the top grade, and for both Sapphires and BNU there’s no promotion/relegation between W-League and Cap Prem anyway. So, the heights above Cap Prem are unreachable, but each team still strives for the glory itself in winning the Capital Premier League.

A quarter of the way through the season, a top-4 had broken away in Cap Prem: Victoria University, Waterside Karori, and Sapphires, and BNU. But BNU had then yet to play any of the other three. A last-gasp loss to Victoria University, followed by a 3-0 loss to Waterside Karori saw BNU needing to get something out of this match to stay in touch with the others. Wellington United had only the one loss, being beaten by Victoria University.

BNU started with a back-5, but had a series of (rolling) substitutions to try to get the right-of-centre position resolved as players tested their fitness.

Chances were traded in the first half: Fiona Walker had a shot saved by the Sapphires’ goalkeeper; Dani Ohlsson beat the offside line from a free-kick and shot across the face of the BNU goal; Sophie Wilkinson and Walker played a one-two, with the Sapphires keeper making a good save from Wilkinson to push the ball over the top; Dani Ohlsson beat two players down the Sapphires’ left, but Sam Miller came across from the BNU left to get enough of a challenge in to take the power off the shot.

The danger of Dani Ohlsson was noted by BNU and they ensured they had a defender on her back for the rest of the half. Dani Ohlsson tried to stay wide on the left, and that opened the right. The Sapphires, despite the pleadings of Alice Cooke-Harvie in the clear, didn’t often attempt to switch play towards the spacious side.

On the half-hour, the Sapphires subbed on the dangerous Nat Olson to provide another attacking threat.

In stoppage time in the first half, Wellington United sub Nat Olson was tripped in the penalty area and a penalty was awarded. Nat Olson herself stepped up to take it. She powered her shot to the left of BNU goalkeeper Alex Karantze, but Karantze reacted quickly enough to save it. Nat Olson tried to put the rebound in, but Karantze produced another save and the ball was cleared. Half-time 0-0.

I thought at halftime that, if I was the Sapphires’ coach, I’d bring Dani Ohlsson into the centre to open space on both wings. Also play the ball through the midfield a bit more, given BNU’s 5-player backline. That’s part of what happened in the second-half, and BNU didn’t have a proper answer but were also let down by some errors of their own.

BNU’s defence couldn’t hold much past halftime. A corner in the 48th minute was met and powerfully shot by Ruby Campbell to give them the Sapphires the 1-0 lead.
It was 2-0 in the 63rd minute. A misdirected goal-kick was intercepted and played to Nat Olson who shot strongly from the edge of the penalty area, low into the bottom corner. If BNU heads dropped after the first goal, they went much further down after this, and never looked like getting near a position to take points.
Karantze saved one-on-one from Hannah Wignall, but in the next play (following a tiny delay for a substitution), Wignall appeared at the near post and lifted the ball over the advancing Karantze to make it 3-0.

Wellington United Sapphires are a step nearer the title, but like the Diamonds in W-League are in 2nd place. BNU have made 4th place their own for the moment and will want to take as many points as possible from what’s likely to be an easier sequence of games, to ensure that at towards the end of the season they have a chance to have a tilt at the title.

Words by Phil Clayton.
Photographs (and their captions) of this match by Michael Welsh (Dr yomcat shoots).

Categories: NZ Capital Women's Premier

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Phil Clayton

Phil Clayton's feet are registered with Brooklyn Northern United but—despite having moved back to Wellington from Christchurch in 2011—his heart is still bonded with Coastal Spirit FC.

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