Soccer: Waitakere claim Minor Premiership

Roy Krishna. Photo / Getty Images.
Roy Krishna. Photo / Getty Images.

Waitakere United sealed the ASB Minor Premiership with two games to spare after a comfortable 4-1 win over Otago United in Dunedin while Auckland City's 3-2 win over Team Wellington saw Hawke's Bay qualify for the playoffs.

Defending champions Waitakere moved to 34 points, seven points clear of the chasing pack and with it a potential place in next year's OFC Champions League.

Team Wellington's hopes of overhauling the Dragons are over after they lost 2-3 to Auckland City for the second time in the space of five days, a result that ensures Hawke's Bay United qualify for their first ever ASB Premiership playoffs in nine years of trying, after they drew 1-1 with Canterbury in Napier.

In a five goal thriller in the capital, Darren Cheriton gave Wellington the lead on 32 minutes scoring on the break before an Adam Dickinson penalty five minutes after halftime levelled the scores.

City stole in front 16 minutes later when youngster Simon Arms headed home a Pedro Santa Cecilia Garcia corner, only for substitute Hamish Watson to level the match for the second time after a Henry Fa'arodo shot appeared to be heading wide on 80 minutes.

The match finished in high drama when substitute Daniel Koprivcic notched the winner with a minute left to play.

The 3-2 win moves the Auckland City closer to earning New Zealand's second OFC Champions League spot, which in the past has been earmarked for the regular season runners-up should the same team claim both league and grand final honours, as Waitakere did in 2010/11 season.

At Forsyth Barr Stadium, a positive Otago side kept things tight during the first half hour of their match with Waitakere but a Ryan de Vries first half double separated the teams at the break.

It took Regan Coldicott just four minutes after the restart to race clear of the Waitakere defence and give Otago some hope, and when Allan Pearce's spot kick was saved by goalkeeper Liam Little on the hour mark, the home side sensed a potential upset.

But those hopes were dashed when Milos Nikolic scored with a diving header from a Pearce cross with a minute left, before de Vries completed his hat-trick from the penalty mark three minutes into time added on and extended the champions' unbeaten run to 14 matches in all competitions.

Meanwhile in Napier, a 45th minute header by Aaron Clapham was enough for Canterbury United to claim its first draw of the campaign, cancelling out a Conor Tinnion goal three minutes before halftime, as Hawke's Bay and Canterbury drew 1-1.

A desperate Hawke's Bay - undefeated at home for over a year - threw everything at the visitors in the final minutes, but the Dragons hung on to consolidate their position in fourth place, seven points clear of Team Wellington with just two rounds left to play.

In Hamilton, YoungHeart Manawatu ended a wretched 10-match losing streak downing Waikato FC 3-2 at Porritt Stadium. Seule Soromon opened the scoring after just four minutes but the home side were level when Rory Turner equalised just four minutes later. Soromon restored the visitors' advantage on 18 minutes to ensure a narrow 2-1 halftime lead for Manawatu.

That advantage disappeared when Nathan Cooksley headed a wayward clearance into the path of Gurjeep Singh who levelled nine minutes after the restart. Waikato FC - who haven't won at home since February 2011 - were left crestfallen when Sam Redwood headed home the YoungHeart winner on 84 minutes. YoungHeart's victory leaves the bottom three teams all level on six points with goal difference rendering Manawatu eighth, Waikato seventh and Otago sixth.

A full round of action next Sunday also sees Otago backing up against fifth-placed Team Wellington in Invercargill, while third-placed Hawke's Bay face undefeated Waitakere United in Napier. Auckland City tackle Waikato FC at Kiwitea Street and YoungHeart Manawatu travel to Christchurch eager to build on today's win in Hamilton.

In the ASB Youth League, Auckland City defeated Hawke's Bay 4-0, Northern-based U-17 trumped Waikato FC 4-0 to sit first and second in the Northern Conference. Down south, Canterbury beat ten-man Nelson Falcons 2-1 to go top of the Southern Conference, while Otago edged YoungHeart Manawatu 2-1 in Dunedin to sit in third

- APNZ

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