Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

New Zealand: Excitement ahead of rebranded ASB Premiership

Posted in Oceania Football by peterbein on October 13, 2010

 

Waitakere United

Waitakere United are the defending champions in New Zealand

 

Having signed a new five-year deal with ASB Bank, the former New Zealand Football Championship (NZFC) has been rebranded into the ASB Premiership starting from the 2010-11 season and it hails a new enthusiasm for the game in this part of the world which saw its national team, the All Whites, enjoy unprecedented success in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Now the football authorities in New Zealand hope for the game to grow and standards to increase in what is traditionally a rugby union stronghold and, for that to happen, small but significant steps such as the new sponsorship deal are crucial to the league’s development. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks ahead to the new season.

Auckland City and Waitakere United have held a duopoly of the domestic honours since the league’s inception in 2004-05 with the former winning the championship play-offs four times and the latter winning twice including last season’s title, winning 3-1 against surprise finalists Canterbury United. New Zealand’s equivalent of the Old Firm remain the teams to beat even if they have to balance out their domestic campaign with the oncoming “O-League” – Oceania Champions League – a competition which both teams have won twice in the last five years although neither was victorious last season. Canterbury United, largely unchanged from last season, will fancy their chances of upsetting the apple cart and will want to reach another Grand Final and make it third time lucky following defeats in 2005-06 and 2009-10. Team Wellington are another team who have title ambitions having finished in third place in the 2009-10 regular season before losing in the play-offs to eventual champions Waitakere United.

Amongst the other four teams Otago United seemingly have the best chance of breaking into the top four finishing fifth in the 2009-10 regular season and only losing out on a play-off place by virtue of an inferior goal difference to eventual finalists Canterbury United. The likes of  Hawke’s Bay United and Youngheart Manawatu will be fighting it out to avoid the bottom place in the eight team league along with last season’s wooden spoonists Waikato FC who don’t look ready just yet to emulate last season’s Canterbury United side who went from worst to very nearly first. However there is a new rule in the new-look ASB Premiership which forces clubs to have five under-20 players in their squads with an obligation for three of those players to be amongst the playing staff on each matchday so this may allow a little more unpredictability in the championship.

Champions Waitakere United begin their campaign with a home tie this weekend against Team Wellington on Sunday, twenty-four hours after Auckland City opens the season with an away trip to Waikato FC. The first meeting between the Big Two will happen on November 7th when Auckland City host Waitakere United for their first home game of the domestic season. The three other games on that weekend see Otago United, Team Wellington and Youngheart Manawatu welcoming Waikato FC, Canterbury United and Hawke’s Bay United respectively. Can any of those six teams finally topple the top two and claim a first ever title? Keep in touch with Stoppage Time at all of the crucial points of the new season.

 

New Zealand: Waitakere United seal second title

Posted in Oceania Football by peterbein on April 24, 2010
Waitakere United

Waitakere United are New Zealand football champions for the second time

Waitakere United have won their second New Zealand Football Championship (NZFC) title after a 3-1 defeat of underdogs Canterbury United in Saturday’s final. Canterbury United had shocked everybody by knocking out defending champions Auckland City in the semi-finals and were facing a Waitakere side who, only last week, were heavily defeated in the first leg of the Oceania Champions League final. Waitakere, however, showed their strength to ensure that the NZFC title remains in the city of Auckland, which it has done since the league’s inception in 2004.

Waitakere United were the hosts of the sixth NZFC Grand Final due to their superior record in the regular season. Waitakere finished second in the table just two points behind minor premiers Auckland City. Canterbury United squeaked into the play-offs on the last day of the regular season pipping Otago United into fourth place thanks to a better goal difference. In the semi-finals both teams overcame tough ties with Waitakere United getting the better of Team Wellington on away goals whilst Canterbury United secured an unlikely 4-2 triumph over Auckland City. Canterbury’s only ever appearence in the NZFC final came in the 2005-06 season where they lost to Auckland City in a penalty shoot-out so the Dragons were hoping to go one better this time.

The chances of another shock were increased after just six minutes of the game when Tom Lancaster gave the visiting Canterbury side an early lead. Waitakere were on the back foot but the early goal had the effect of waking up the home side who equalised ten minutes before half-time thanks to prolific Soloman Islands striker Benjamin Totori. The turning point of the game occurred just three minutes later when Canterbury’s Paul Dirou was sent-off after a high challenge on Jason Rowely and, although the first half would finish all square, the home side would make full use of their numerical advantage in the second half. Allan Pearce, who would go on to win the Man of the Match award, gave Waitakere United the lead on 57 minutes shooting home from the edge of the box. The match was sealed seventeen minutes from time when Waitakere captain Jake Butler slipped through a lovely through ball to Benjamin Totori who rounded helpless keeper Tom Batty to score his second goal of the game and give the home side a healthy two goal lead which they saw out easily in the time remaining.

Waitakere United will represent New Zealand in the 2010-11 OFC Champions League (O-League) along with Auckland City who gained the reward for finishing minor premiers. Canterbury United can be proud of their efforts as they came so close to winning the title after having been the worst team in the league in the previous two seasons. For Waitakere United there isn’t much time to celebrate their domestic crown as they hope to overturn a three goal deficit at home to Papua New Guinea side Hekari United in the second leg of the 2009-10 O-League final next Saturday.

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.

New Zealand: Race for the Play-Offs hots up

Posted in Oceania Football by peterbein on February 2, 2010
Auckland City FC

Auckland City FC, seen here celebrating the 2008-09 New Zealand Football Championship, are leading the way in the 2009-10 tournament.

The continuing rivalry between Auckland City and Waitakere United dominated the proceedings in the latest round of fixtures in the New Zealand Football Championship (NZFC). With both teams level on points before the game a win for either side would increase their chances of finishing first in the regular season standings. But there was more than just points at stake in this clash of the titans.

Since the beginning of the NZFC in 2004-05 these two city rivals have dominated the league. Auckland City have won the most championships winning four out of five available thus far (the only exception was Waitakere’s win in 2008) whilst Waitakere United have been crowned “Minor Premiers” (i.e. have topped the regular season standings) three times out of five with Auckland City being successful twice. The fact that the Minor Premiers and the overall champions qualify for the OFC Champions League means that these two arch-rivals have been perennial representatives of New Zealand. Since Australian clubs ceased to participate in the tournament following their move on to the Asian football scene, New Zealand’s big two have won the last four tournaments between them. Auckland City are the current OFC Champions League holders having beaten Koloale FC in last year’s final but were also successful in 2006, whilst Waitakere United won back-to-back tournaments in 2007 and 2008 so their rivalry is more than just a local dispute.

Auckland City began the game on Saturday unbeaten with 19 points from seven games, hosts Waitakere United were level on points albeit having played two games more than the league leaders. A crowd of just over two thousand witnessed the latest chapter of a fixture which always has something riding on the result. Unfortunately the crowd didn’t witness any goals in the first half although both sides did hit the woodwork on one occasion each. Thankfully for the expectant crowd it didn’t take long for the deadlock to be broken once the second half got under way. A header from Auckland City’s Chad Coombes opened the scoring on 53 minutes and they proceeded to take the game to their opponents for the next fifteen minutes. However the home side equalized in the 70th minute after some poor defending following a corner kick allowed Waitakere’s Tim Myers to prod home from close range. The final twenty minutes of the match saw the home side, buoyed by the equalizer, take the game to the champions but they were unable to grab that crucial second goal.

Elsewhere in the NZFC the chase for the fourth spots in the post-season Play-Offs remains tight although third-place Otago United cemented their place by defeating fourth-place Team Wellington 3-1. Team Wellington will now be looking over their shoulder as fifth-place Canterbury United, whose game at Hawkes Bay United was postponed, are only a point behind with two games in hand. The exotically named YoungHeart Manawatu blew their chance to go fourth when they lost 3-2 at home to Waikato FC whose win took them off the bottom of the standings, one point ahead of Hawkes Bay United. With each team playing fourteen matches in the regular season there is still a lot to play for especially as there is no relegation in the eight team NZFC and, therefore, the race for the Play-Offs is just starting to hot up in New Zealand.