When these two teams meet controversy, passion and high entertainment are never very far away. Yesterday’s card-littered Auckland derby contained everything as a tired Auckland City lifted their weary legs to retrieve a 3-0 deficit against runaway NZFC leaders and bitter rivals Waitakere United.
Nobody could have predicted the frenzied and entertaining second-half – much less the additional 9 minutes injury time – after Waitakere United clinically dismantled their jaded hosts in the opening half hour only to allow the defending Oceania and New Zealand champions to stage an unthinkable comeback of Lazarus proportions.
With both Auckland clubs drawn in Group A of the 2007 OFC Champions League there is bound to be more entertainment for football fans to sink their teeth into next year.
Paul Urlovic’s stunning winner from Ross Nicholson’s punted clearance nearly 10 minutes into time added on didn’t so much puncture Waitakere United’s afternoon but send the wheels spinning off into catastrophe.
Having taken the lead through Commins Menapi nearly an hour-and-a-half previously, Waitakere United ran rings around a tired Auckland City outfit more at odds with itself and each other than undertaking the task at hand.
Understandably, Waitakere United took full advantage of Auckland City’s audible bickering and seemingly divided ranks and added a second through former Central United alumni Daniel Koprivcic after 24 minutes.
If the game appeared to have slipped beyond Auckland City’s reach then an even more severe possibility loomed when Allan Pearce smashed home an unstoppable penalty on the half hour mark to make it 3-0 with Auckland City propped up ready for a humiliating derby defeat.
It was impossible to see Waitakere United taking their foot off Auckland City’s throat but that’s exactly what they did and it would prove fatal.
Whatsmore Auckland City’s response had more sweat and thunder about it than any discernible technical superiority over their West Auckland rivals and their exertions finally bore fruit when Keryn Jordan blasted home a 68th minute penalty.
Paul Seaman’s 75th minute header past a stranded Mike Utting from a Neil Sykes freekick threw Auckland City a lifeline as Waitakere stood frozen to the spot.
Within 5 minutes Waitakere United were reduced to ten men when Hoani Edwards was given his marching orders. He was joined moments later by the normally level headed Rupesh Puna. The pendulum had swung back towards Auckland City but there was further drama to come when South African striker Keryn Jordan was also red carded.
Compatriot Grant Young – 1 minute into time added on – then blasted home the equaliser with a bullet header that crashed in off the underside of the crossbar as the Kiwitea Street crowd erupted. Waitakere – who were at one stage contemplating a romping derby victory – were looking desperately for Neil Fox to end the game and ensure a share of the spoils.
Then, staggeringly, Paul Urlovic’s looped header disappeared over a forlorn Mike Utting, and into the top corner of the net resulting in a small pitch invasion. referee Meil Fox was jostled by irate Waitakere United supporters and had to be escorted from the field by officials as Auckland City ended 2006 on an extraordinary high and celebrated one of the greatest comebacks in NZFC history.