A rare draw, an upset loss for Waitakere and a record-equalling score combined to provide plenty of interest in eighth round ASB Premiership soccer action yesterday.
Showing the effects of their heavy workload, leaders Auckland City dropped their first points of the season when held to a scoreless draw by a rejuvenated Waikato FC at Kiwitea St.
Not that there were not plenty of scoring chances, but superb saves from Jacob Spoonley (Auckland City) and Mark Fulcher kept their castles intact in a game which produced some excellent football.
In the end the points were shared - in only the second drawn game of the season.
Jason Hicks demanded superb saves from Spoonley early and late in the first half while Emiliano Tade and Manel Exposito combined well for City's best chance, only to be denied by a Michael Mayne goal-line clearance.
The home side had the better of the second half - after Hicks had again tested Spoonley in the opening minutes - but City could not turn good scoring chances into goals. They even missed from the penalty spot after captain Ivan Vicelich was brought down by Mike Kramer. Exposito picked his spot but could not beat Fulcher's diving save. Vicelich, substitute Adam Dickinson and Exposito all had other chances but were denied.
In the last play of the game City were awarded an indirect freekick when referee Matt Conger ruled Fulcher had picked up a back-pass but, on the advice of one of his assistants, he changed his call, opting instead for a drooped ball.
"In the first half Waikato were very intense and tested us but in the second we had plenty of chances but could not take them," said Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx. "Some of our players are very tired but overall I'm happy with seven points from a possible nine in our last three games."
Waikato coach Declan Edge can also look back at the same return from his last three but this one was special.
"Obviously I'm very happy. This is the top team in Oceania," said Edge. "I think we matched them for long periods."
Waitakere slumped to their third loss of the season, going down 1-0 to Hawkes Bay United at Park Island with Connor Tinnion's 79th minute goal separating the sides.
Canterbury embarrassed YoungHeart Manawatu 9-1 to equal the league record set by Waitakere, ironically over Canterbury, four seasons ago. Team Wellington beat Otago United 2-1 away to join Waitakere and Canterbury on 15 points - four behind Auckland City who have a game in hand.