AUCKLAND – A goalless draw at home to Hawke’s Bay United on Sunday saw ten-man Waitakere United surrender their lead in the New Zealand Football Championship to cross-town rivals Auckland City who notched a 3-0 win over Waikato FC 24 hours earlier.

City’s victory takes them to 15 points, one ahead of Waitakere – who have two games in hand – with Hawke’s Bay a point further back in third.

YoungHeart Manawatu hang on to fourth spot with 12 points despite losing 2-3 to Team Wellington in the match of the round. Wellington are now just a point behind Manawatu and Waikato in the race for a semi final spot, although they have played an extra game.

Otago United (7 points) remain bottom of the table although their 2-1 win over Christchurch United (8) in the South Island derby gives them a chance of catching their neighbours.

In Henderson, Waitakere were forced to play almost 80 minutes with ten men after Paul Seaman was booked twice inside the first 11 minutes, and subsequently failed to break down an organised Hawke’s Bay.

In the capital, Wellington came back from two goals down with a three goal burst to begin the second half.

First half goals Adam Cowan and Jason Hayne gave YoungHeart a two-goal halftime lead, but the excellent Luis Corrales took himself level pegging with Hayne at the top of the golden boot chart with a double before winning a 61st minute penalty – converted by Adam Birch – that sees Wellington keep their season alive.

In Christchurch, Otago United took the derby spoils against Canterbury thanks to two goals from Aaron Burgess, and despite Jamie Smith grabbing a goal back for the Dragons, Canterbury now adjust their sights their sights from the playoff race to a battle to avoid the wooden spoon.

On Saturday, Auckland City were deserved winners at home over Waikato FC but flattered by a 3-0 score line that condemned Waikato to their second straight defeat in the New Year.

The new league leaders took early lead in the tenth minute when Matt Friel poked home after the defence had failed to clear from a corner. It took over 70 more minutes for Auckland to seal the game through Keryn Jordan’s 18-yard strike before an unlucky Craig Wylie turned the ball into his own net to complete the scoring moments before the final whistle.

Auckland face a tough challenge to hang on to their lead next week when they meet Waitakere in the Auckland derby on Saturday, with Waitakere backing up on Monday in an Auckland Anniversary Day catch-up game against Waikato.

Waikato also play twice, hosting Canterbury on Saturday while Manawatu take on Otago and Wellington host Hawke’s Bay in Sunday’s only fixture.

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Story and image courtesy of New Zealand Football Media

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