Soccer: Waitakere and Wellington prove pundits wrong

By Terry Maddaford

Wellington defender Luke Rowe has a spring in his step as he contests the ball with Auckland City's Luis Corrales.  Photo / Brett Phibbs
Wellington defender Luke Rowe has a spring in his step as he contests the ball with Auckland City's Luis Corrales. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Against the odds and all expectations, Waitakere United and Team Wellington have won through to the ASB Premiership grand final.

Heading into yesterday's semifinal second legs, the smart money was on Auckland City to overcome their first-leg 0-1 deficit to dash Team Wellington dreams while Canterbury United, similarly ahead 1-0 (and that an away goal), were hot favourites to seal their semifinal against struggling defending champions Waitakere.

In the end both predictions were well wide of the mark with City bowing 3-1 at Kiwitea St to Matt Calcott's fired-up Team Wellington, who claimed that one 4-1 on aggregate, while a rampant Waitakere handed Canterbury United their first defeat of the season on the artificial surface at the ASB Football Park, getting home 5-2 to claim the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

The loss was a double whammy for Keith Braithwaite's Canterbury, who went into the deciding leg with two chances of claiming the second O-League spot but left with both dashed.

Now Waitakere United, the longest shot to make the final, have also won hosting rights in a game which will hand the winner not only the coveted title but the second O-League berth alongside Auckland City.

City, struggling somewhat in recent weeks after their domination through most of the season, also had an unbeaten season-long home record to back their claims but once they fell behind after 25 minutes when mid-season signing Henry Fa'arodo scored, it was all uphill.

Manel Exposito got City back to 1-1 with 19 minutes to play but needing more they pressed on to attack and were hit by late goals from Dakota Lucas, who will now get to play for Team Wellington against his old club in the final.

"We needed to have players forward and we were good on the break," said Calcott. "The first goal came from putting on pressure. But we will have to play differently against Waitakere in the final because they've got some of their speedy players back now."

"We must congratulate Wellington and wish them the best in the final," said City coach Ramon Tribulietx. "We've got to come back together and give it our best in the O-League final."

For Waitakere the final, on a yet-to-be-determined date, is the chance for redemption after a stuttering season.

Again under strength and with little to point to as a winning chance, Neil Emblen was given the late-season reprieve of which coaches dream.

The second half was all Waitakere with captain Jake Butler providing the finishing touch to a Ross McKenzie freekick in the 49th minute and Roy Krishna pouncing on a Mark Johnston back-pass to score in the 50th. Krishna netted his second after 63 minutes before de Vries also made it two.

- NZ Herald

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