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A game that had quite a lot of things

Greenhithe Catimba 2, Hibiscus Coast 2 AET (Hibiscus Coast won 3-2 on penalties)
North Harbour Stadium Football Turf, Auckland, June 4 2018

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It’s a tired old bollock of a cliché when writers breathlessly declare that a game had everything. I mean, really? Everything? Literally everything? Was there an alien abduction? A plague of locusts? Was an indirect free kick rudely interrupted by the second coming? No? It didn’t have EVERYTHING then, did it?

This game patently didn’t have everything.

But by golly, it did have quite a lot of things…

It had an underdog.

Catimba, “gamesmanship” in Portugese, is a word used by Brazillians to describe the football style of players from Argentina and Uruguay. The brand new AFF/NFF Conference side that bears this name leapt into most people’s consciousness a few weeks ago, when the put their name to good use by dispatching NRFL Division 1 team Manurewa in the cupset of Round One. And yesterday, I was keen to see if lightning would strike a second time against a slightly higher calibre opponent.

It had a favourite.

Hibiscus Coast may play in the same division as Manurewa, but they are sitting twelve points above the struggling South Auckland outfit and have conceded half as many goals as them to boast the third best defensive record in the league. This would be an undoubtedly tougher challenge for the South Americans.

It had a scoreless first half.

If you are the underdog in a cup tie, your chances of causing a boil over probably improve if you can stop your opponents from scoring in the first half. If the stronger team on paper gets an early advantage, it’s hard to claw it back and more often than not we end up with a blowout. But if things aren’t clicking for them by half time, the pressure can build and this can lead to mistakes that lead to openings that lead to cupsets.

Having said that, when this game reached half time it wasn’t so obvious who the favourites really were – because Catimba had dominated their more illustrious opponents for the vast bulk of proceedings, pressing like maniacs and generally looking like they wanted it more.

It had ultras!

As the second half got underway, the Catimba fans in the house really started to perk up – sensing, perhaps, that something special was in the offing. There was drumming and singing and some of the tunes were vaguely reminiscent of Waiheke United in its heyday!

It had disappointment.

But the ultras may have jinxed their guys because, not long after the singing started, Julian Stevenson scored for Hibiscus Coast in around about the 8th minute of the second half, leaving Catimba dreams in tatters.

It had drama!

They weren’t down for long though! Because just a couple of minutes after taking the lead, Hibiscus Coast found themselves down a man. It was a bit of an odd one. A Catimba player went down in a challenge right on the right hand edge of the penalty area and the Coast player appeared to almost absentmindedly knock him in the back in the aftermath. That earned him a straight red. Much to Hibiscus Coast’s fury.

It had a controversial penalty.

After the Coast player had been dismissed, the officials had a hui and came to the conclusion that the so-called offence had occurred inside the box. The spot was duly pointed to, and Nico Fetter duly slotted. Game on big time!

It had an injury time comeback!

Despite their numerical disadvantage, it was Hibiscus Coast who retook the lead against the run of play via Pete Benjatikul in the 70th minute give or take. But Catimba shrugged off the setback and kept dominating their opposition. Their persistence was finally rewarded just in the nick of time, when Massimo Sabini struck an equaliser right at the death to send us into extra time!

It had an element of farce.

There was a long delay before extra time got underway. This was caused by the dismantling of our proverbial set-up and moving the whole operation over to the pitch next door. This was due to a big shower of rain emanating from thick black clouds that had turned the visibility darker than my mood after a Roma loss. Unfortunately the pitch we had been on didn’t have floodlights. Well, it did, but they didn’t have, you know, bulbs.

It had a big miss that should have won the game.

Extra time passed largely as extra time traditionally does – with both sides putting most of their effort into not stuffing up. It was still Catimba who were playing most of the football though, and it was almost the last kick of the 120 minutes that yielded their biggest stuff up of the whole afternoon. They had an attacking player with the whole net to aim at, Coast goalie Fletch already beaten, but the shot was blazed over.

And it had heartbreak…

And so off to penalties we went. Both goalies made spectacular saves and both sides had penalty takers adopting the old universal shirt over the face position after missing from 12 yards. In the end it came down to who handled the pressure best, and it was perhaps unsurprisingly the more experienced hands from a higher level who came out on top.

A painful loss for Catimba. They were the better side from start to finish. On the other hand they had their chances to win. And their penalty was decidedly dodgy. Still, a cruel way to go out.

Their excellent Facebook page’s ‘about’ section says they “wanted to fulfill their dream of playing the Chatham Cup” this year, and they have certainly done that and then some, adding their own little chapter of history to this great competition.

Let’s see what they can do next year!

Categories: NZ Chatham Cup

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: http://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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