Waitakere United have been crowned 2007 O-League champions after a 1-0 win was enough to give the West Aucklanders an away goals victory over Fijian champions Ba at Mount Smart Stadium this afternoon.
Waitakere United defenders George Suri (51st minute) and Craig Wylie (94th minute)were both red carded for their second bookable offences in a pulsating and dramatic match played in front of a crowd of 9,000.
Suri’s ordering off galvanised Waitakere and they found themselves 1-0 up when a Jeff Campbell free kick to the far post eluded Ba keeper Laisenia Tuba allowing Daniel Koprivcic to head the ball into the path of Allan Pearce who headed into an empty net.
It was a cruel blow for Ba who had the better of the first half with chances to Osea Vakatalesau and Kiniviliame Turagalailai both squandered.
Waitakere United had to survive a raft of Fijian attacks and had Allan Pearce to thank in the 24th minute when the midfielder cleared a Malakai Kainihewe header off the line.
Waitakere United keeper Michael Utting was in superb form and denied Vakatalesau with an acrobatic save just before halftime.
Ba could have led 2-0 at the break but matters didn’t get any better for the Fijians in the second half when Vakatalesau’s header was palmed wide by the inspirational Utting after 59 minutes.
The Fijian champions struggled to regain their first half ascendancy as Waitakere United’s defence thwarted attack after attack with Graham Pearce, Sam Jasper and Craig Wylie putting in a sterling effort.
Ba coach Yogendra Dutt was understandably upset at the result but was philosophical about the future of Fijian football.
“This is difficult for us to accept the pain of defeat but this is not the end of the road for us. In life you must accept painful lessons sometimes and use them to move forward. This is what we will do,” Dutt said.
Waitakere United coach Steve Cain expressed relief at the final result after the pain and disappointment of losing the NZFC Final to Auckland City.
Solomon Islands striker Commins Menapi picked up the 2007 O-League Golden Boot award from FIFA/OFC Ambassador and former France and Real Madrid star Christian Karembeu for his five goal haul in six O-League appearances.
Waitakere United’s victory sealed a $670,000NZD payday for the club at the FIFA Club World Cup – Japan 2007.