New Zealand: Play-Offs loom for title hopefuls
The regular season is over and for the quartet that remain in New Zealand’s ASB Premiership it is an exciting climax to the season. Waitakere United won the Minor Premiership finishing top of the regular season standings and, thus, qualify for the 2011-12 OFC Champions League. Will they do the double or will one of the other three semi-finalists stop them from winning the overall title?
The final match of round 14 of the regular season fixture list was completed today due to Canterbury United having to re-arrange their fixture against Auckland City following the devastating earthquake which recently struck the city. Whilst Auckland had already qualified for the play-offs by virtue of a second place finish, Canterbury had to beat their hosts in order to leapfrog Hawke’s Bay United into fourth place of the ASB Premiership standings. That they did thanks to a late winner by Ken Yamamoto whose goal in the 8oth minute gave Canterbury the final post-season berth. It means that the top four from last season – Waitakere United, Auckland City, Team Wellington and Canterbury United – will fight it out for the title again this year.
Waitakere United, having finished top of the standings by six points from arch-rivals Auckland City, are the favourites to win the national title for a second straight season. They will meet Canterbury United, who ran them close in last year’s Grand Final, at home in the semi-final, first leg on Sunday, March 13th with the return fixture due to be played on Sunday, April 3rd as Canterbury have yet to find a venue to hold their designated home tie. The other semi-final will see Auckland City, who recently qualified for the 2010-11 OFC Champions League final, face off against Team Wellington who were unfortunate to be eliminated by Waitakere in last season’s semi-final after going out on the away goals rule.