Southern United 1-2 Auckland Football Federation. Sunday 30th September, Tahuna Park, Dunedin.
Auckland’s trip down south to take on Southern United on Sunday afternoon was always going to be the game of the round in this third week of the 2018 National Women’s League.
The same fixture opened the 2017 NWL season, and it saw a stunning upset as Southern recorded their first victory in more than four years to upset the highly-fancied northerners.
With Southern United going on to make the playoffs for the first time ever, the two teams then met again in the Preliminary Final – where Auckland exacted revenge before going on to defeat Canterbury United Pride in the final to be crowned 2017 champions.
That made this afternoon’s match-up a fascinating prospect, with Southern just about going in as favourites, and a big crowd made their way to Tahuna Park to watch the action unfold.
I have to admit I actually missed the opening twenty minutes of the match; waiting for my daughter to wake up before we made the short trip down to Tahuna Park, I thought I’d instead take advantage of the fact the home team was providing a live video stream and watch the first half from home, before heading along for the second half.
Unfortunately, there were some serious teething issues with the Facebook Live stream – the opening portion of the match was simply unwatchable, first zoomed so far out that a magnifying glass was needed to see any action, before the camera inexplicably spun 90 degrees; viewers were stuck needing to find some ingenious ways of trying to view the action:
Frustrated, I thought enough was enough, so dragged my daughter out of bed and raced down to Tahuna Park; as we got out of the car, a large roar erupted as a Renee Bacon cross was bundled into the Auckland net off a helpless visiting defender. One nil to the home team, although apparently it was a little against the run of play as Auckland had made a good start to the match.
Halftime came with no addition to the scoreline, although Auckland created a few more chances and forced some good saves from Southern goalkeeper Jordan Woodward.
Auckland captain Steph Skilton was pulling the strings for the visitors, playing in a holding midfield role. She must be a coach’s dream – comfortable in attack, defence, or midfield.
Everyone knows about winger Paige Satchell’s electric pace, but it’s still impossible to stop at times. It appeared that Southern youngster Lara Wall was employed to close down the attacking threat of the pacy “Patchell” and she did her best to shut her down. Half chances were created, but Auckland were still struggling to breach the organised Southern backline.
The home team certainly had chances to add to their lead, too; Britney-Lee Nicholson and Georgia Brown were often threatening in attack, and midfielder Chelsea Whittaker was industrious in Shontelle Smith’s absence.
Auckland finally levelled the scores with half an hour to play, and it was a player familiar to Southern fans who found the net in spectacular fashion. From an attacking corner, the ball flew out to Sam Muirhead near the penalty spot. Controlling the ball with her thigh, she then executed a perfect volley to beat a helpless Woodward. 1-1!
Both teams continued to trade blows as they hunted for a winner, with Auckland still having the better of possession. The match looked to be headed for a draw, before Southern were rocked with a stoppage-time winner for Auckland’s Lucy Carter.
It was another peach of a goal – from 25 yards out, Carter looped the ball over Woodward and into the top-right corner. 2-1!
It had been a good battle between two talented sides, and was heartbreaking for the home team, but Auckland just about deserved the three points. They’re unbeaten so far and host Capital next weekend.
Southern United will have the chance to bounce back against winless WaiBOP, although will have to break their North Island hoodoo to come away with a win.
Once I got back home, it was nice to see that the Facebook Live stream had been a lot smoother in the second half – you can check it out here:
Streaming of matches is still in its infancy in this country, and Northern had similar teething issues with their stream last week, but hopefully a lot will be learnt from these early forays. I hope that the federations are prepared to share with each other what’s worked and what hasn’t as at the end of the day it’s in everyone’s interest to get a good product online.
You can check out some photos I took in the gallery below:
Categories: NZ Women's National League