Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

New Zealand: Waitakere and Canterbury reach Grand Final

Posted in Oceania Football by peterbein on April 11, 2010
New Zealand Football Trophy

Waitakere United will play Canterbury United on April 25th to decide the New Zealand Football Championship

New Zealand’s football championship (NZFC) Grand Final will see Waitakere United face-off against Canterbury United after the latter surprised the form guide on Sunday by defeating Minor Premiers Auckland City whilst Waitakere United scraped through on Saturday having been taken all the way by Team Wellington.

Waitakere United, who recently reached the final of Oceania’s Champions League (O-League), were just seconds away from a shock exit from the competition but some dramatic events turned the match in United’s favour. After Waitakere had lost the first leg 3-2 in Wellington their task was made more difficult after just ten minutes of the second leg, played at United’s Fred Taylor Park stadium, when Team Wellington’s Andy Barron struck a free-kick from the edge of the penalty area to increase his team’s aggregate lead. It wasn’t until the 70th minute of the game that Waitakere United regained their focus as that was when they equalized through Ryan de Vries to set up a frantic last twenty minute period for Team Wellington’s defence. The game had reached stoppage time when Waitakere United set up the last major incident of the game. A hopeful punt upfield by Jake Butler was met in the box by Brent Fisher whose backward header went past unlucky Wellington keeper James Bannatyne to secure a 4-4 aggregate score and progression to the final thanks to the away goals rule. Team Wellington were deeply disappointed not to reach the Grand Final as their performances over the two legs merited more but Waitakere United maintained the luck which sees them on the verge of an impressive New Zealand championship and O-League double.

Having won the minor premiership Auckland City were contemplating another NZFC grand final showdown with their arch-rivals from Waitakere United. However, despite having a slender 2-1 advantage from the first leg, Auckland City blew the chance to follow up their regular season success with another shot at the overall title. Canterbury United finished the regular season thirteen points behind Auckland and only qualified for the play-offs by virtue of having a better goal difference than Otago United. Even so the way in which Canterbury United took the game to their more fancied opponents is a credit to them as they didn’t allow the first leg result to affect their approach in the return leg in Auckland. With plenty of good football played by both teams the game came to life in the 26th minute when Russell Kamo scored the first of his two goals to give Canterbury United the lead. The game was still finely poised when Kamo scored his second just before the hour mark leaving the Auckland defence trailing in his wake. Auckland City, knowing that they were now trailing on aggregate, had to push further forward in the hope of levelling the tie overall but the Canterbury rearguard remained resolute and the outsiders were to be rewarded deep into stoppage time when Andy Barton completed the win by grabbing the third to secure a famous win for The Dragons. At least Auckland City can console themselves knowing that they have already secured one of New Zealand’s two places in the 2010-11 O-League as their reward for winning the regular season table.

The Grand Final takes place on Sunday, April 25th at the home of Waitakere United, the higher-ranked team in the regular season final table receiving home advantage. Waitakere United will hope to become New Zealand football champions for the second time in three seasons whilst Canterbury United will hope to have better luck than in their only appearance in the NZFC Grand Final in 2005-06 when they lost out to Auckland City via the lottery of a penalty shoot-out.

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