Soccer: Weighty task for Bay United side

The top-four soccer playoffs roar into action this weekend with semifinal newcomers Hawke's Bay United tackling champions Waitakere United while Canterbury United play Auckland City.

The ties will be played on a home-and-away basis.

Underdogs Canterbury and Kinetic Electrical Bay will need to make the most of home advantage before the Auckland-based return legs the following weekend. Away goals could decide the winner if the aggregate scores are tied.

Waitakere's record this season suggests it'll be hard enough beating them over 90 minutes, let alone 180, so to oust the champions the Chris Greatholder-coached Bay United will need every ounce of the form that has seen them qualify for the playoffs for the first time in the premiership's nine-year history.

But if the team from the Bay have been the league's romance story this season, then runaway minor premiers Waitakere are their immovable object.

Only one team have beaten the reigning New Zealand champions this season - Canterbury ended their streak last Sunday - and with key players back from injury or enforced rest, the odds are short on Waitakere defending their crown.

Four-time winners Auckland finished the regular season as runners-up but want to avoid a repeat of last year's semifinal where they were beaten over two legs by Team Wellington to miss the grand final despite not losing a single game en route to the minor premiership title.

But three seasons ago the Dragons dumped Auckland at the semifinal stage, 4-2 on aggregate, including a 3-0 thumping at Kiwitea Street. Canterbury fans would love to see a repeat, while the Kiwitea Street faithful have their eyes on the trophy "missing" from their cabinet for the past four seasons.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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