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Two mad Italians on Anzac Day

Lynn Avon 1, Kaeo Inter 0
Ken Maunder Park, Auckland, April 25 2018

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Anzac Day is usually special for two reasons – commemorating the sacrifices of brave men and women during wartime; and the opening round of the Chatham Cup, the premier football competition in New Zealand. But this year there was a third as well!

6:45am on Wednesday morning saw Roma play at Anfield in my beloved club’s first European semi-final since 1984, when they deservedly and justifiably fair and square without any hint of conspiracy whatsoever dispatched The Journeyfan’s Dundee United.

It was today’s opponents that we were ultimately defeated by in the final all those years ago. So I was keen to taste revenge. But it was a bit of a worry, due to the lack of open pubs on Anzac Day and my lack of a Sky subscription, that three Giordani brothers all made our way to support our team at the Paddington in Parnell – home of the Liverpool Supporters’ Club! To say we were outnumbered would be a gross understatement.

At 5-0 down, this was looking like the worst family decision to attend an event since the Starks of Winterfell showed up at the Red Wedding.

But when Dzeko’s goal went in the fake smile I had been using to mask my utter despair and humiliation gained a hint of genuineness. Then when Perotti’s penalty went in I couldn’t quite stifle a cheer! Given the fact that I was literally the only person in the pub who was making a sound, unfortunately it was noticed judging by the angry stares drilling into me from all angles…

By the time we left however, I think I was feeling happier than most of the surrounding Scousers. They appeared to sense that the momentum was with Roma by that stage. Meanwhile we still have very little to lose, while they have everything to lose. It will be interesting next week, whatever happens.

And once I had grown tired of obsessing over Twitter and WhatsApp discussions about how and why we couldn’t shut down that pesky Egyptian we sold (and who I didn’t think would be much of a loss… oops…) it was time to turn my attention to another mad Italian – my old mate Stefano Virgili!

Because at 2pm Stefano’s Kaeo Inter were playing Lynn Avon in the preliminary round of Te Cup – and I for one was keen to see if they could fare any better against their more fancied opposition than Roma did against ours.

The answer was – ahhh… yeah, just a little bit!

They actually did bloody well against a side that plays three divisions higher than them. They played as well if not better than I have ever seen them play before and in the final wash were a little unlucky not to at least push the game into extra time!

Lynn Avon had the lion’s share of the chances, as you might expect, but they didn’t appear to have their shooting boots on.

The home side’s goal came from a 34th minute penalty that was saved and then trundled in on the rebound by Jeffrey Irabor. But apart from that things just weren’t clicking for a side that were possibly feeling a bit tired after their Saturday game and/or were maybe expecting an easier afternoon of this than the one they got.

Lynn Avon had a second spot kick awarded in their favour before the first half was out but again there was a save and this time it stayed out. Perhaps it was as a result of this that it appeared as though Kaeo Inter thought their goalie was leading such a charmed existence that instead of buying him a lotto ticket they would put a white shirt on him and plonk him up front for the second half!

It didn’t lead to a goal for the visitors but nor did it cost them one at the end he had been so ably guarding. The new keeper was hardly called upon to pull off a genuine save and, despite a few fumbles, when the final whistle blew the side from the Far North were left to rue what might have been if that first penalty save had stuck.

Before I finish I want to give a shoutout to Florian, a German friend of mine who watched the game with me. It was his first ever Chatham Cup experience, and despite him being a veteran of quite a few grassroots football games in New Zealand already in his short time here (he’s a groundhopper), he was still really taken aback by the lack of assistant referees running the touch. He thought it was hilarious that a substituted Lynn Avon player was filling in as AR1 in the second half of a national cup competition! Only in New Zealand?

As for Stefano, he told me after the game that he would donate a kidney if Roma can make a second great comeback and overcome Liverpool next week.

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times – he’s not too bad for an Interista!

Categories: NZ Chatham 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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