Auckland City 5, Tasman United 2
Kiwitea Street, Auckland, December 16 2017
Kiwitea Street was the setting of my last organised football game of 2017.
Auckland City’s title clinching National Youth League fixture against Tasman United yesterday was my 36th men’s game of the year – and there have been 30 women’s games to boot.
To those who undoubtedly think I spend too much time focussed on the women’s game – you see, despite my best efforts I still haven’t managed the 50/50 ratio I would like. So there’s always room for improvement!
My grand total of 66 games this year is down a bit on 2016, when I got along to 75 and my football obsession compelled me to drive roughly the same number of kilometres as the distance between my house and downtown Singapore! This year I have consciously scaled back a little to pace myself and make sure I keep Gina onside. I haven’t worked it out but looking at my odometer I probably only made it as far as Jakarta this time.
Anyway, on to the matter at hand, my last outing for another year was a fun watch as the hosts wrapped up their fifth National Youth League title in the December heat. The final score was fair, even though it was close for most of the game and only blew out to the comfortable looking three goal cushion right at the end.
Auckland City struck first very early when Dalton Wilkins put them ahead in just the second minute and when Jack Anderson doubled the lead just before the 20 minute mark it looked like we’d be struggling to witness a contest.
But to Tasman’s credit they chipped away all day when they could between the Auckland City barrages, and were rewarded just five minutes after Anderson’s strike, which brought the deficit back to a solitary goal – where it stayed for the remainder of the first half.
It was an unusually long half time break due to a lengthy delay while Groundsman Tom struggled to get the sprinklers to turn off. If it had been up to me I would have said leave them on given the baking hot summer’s day. I imagine it would have been quite refreshing to play through them!
But when the water finally did what it was told we were underway again and the second half began in a similar vein to the first. Auckland City shot back out to yet another two goal lead via Leon van den Hoven six minutes post the restart – a goal I missed entirely because I was taking photos of monarch butterflies feasting on the agapanthus at the southern end of the ground. And I’m not even sorry.
Then just one minute after that I was jolted away from the Agapanthus once again by the shriek of the whistle and the referee pointing at the penalty spot. Alex Connor-McLean converted for Tasman and we were back to a one goal deficit.
Unfortunately for the visitors though, that was as close as they got. Justin Bailey struck twice, in the 87th minute and again in the third minute of injury time, to put the result beyond all doubt and confirm that his side, coached by former Football Ferns assistant coach Aaron McFarland assisted by Onehunga Sports’ double winning tactician Hiroshi Miyazawa, as the last New Zealand domestic team to lift a trophy in 2017.
Except… There wasn’t a trophy. Not even a blow-up one. According to rumour it has been lost in transit somewhere between Hamilton and Auckland, as last year’s champions tried to return it. Awkward…
Never mind, it only adds to the folk law! I’m sure it will turn up one day, hopefully in the same hidey hole as the Jules Rimet Trophy…
Regardless of that, the most important thing to celebrate here is the end of another fantastic year of the round ball code. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, how lucky are we to live in a country where the football season is effectively 365 days long?
Long may it continue.
[Apologies for the lack of captions on the photos but photographers were denied access to the team sheets before the game and there was no match day programme.]
Categories: NZ Men's National Youth 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.