It was a familiar NZFC script at Trusts Stadium last night as Auckland City broke Waitakere United hearts yet again with their latest Houdini act – but this time it was in the OFC O-League.
United skipper Danny Hay gave the West Aucklanders the perfect lift when he powered a header past Ross Nicholson after just 25 minutes. Waitakere United looked set to roll their crosstown rivals but spurned several decent chances, missed chances that would come back to haunt them later.
Waitakere United fans must’ve believed it would finally be their day when Solomon Islands striker Commins Menapi powered home a great finish from an Allan Pearce cross just five minutes after the restart. The goal seemed to confirm the growing belief around Trusts Stadium that United – unable to conquer City in the NZFC – would reverse that trend in the O-League.
Then it happened. For some inexplicable reason Waitakere United reverted to the same bad habit of sitting back and inviting Auckland City to throw the kitchen sink at them. As if the lesson hadn’t been painful enough in last Christmas’s extraordinary match at Kiwitea Street when Waitakere surrendered a seemingly invincible 3-0 lead to lose 4-3. The only saving grace this time was Waitakere at least took a share of the spoils.
In fairness to Auckland City their fightback was sparked by a quite special goal from Paul Urlovic. The All White striker – who has played a bit-part role with Grant Young and Keryn Jordan the preferred striking partnership of choice – found space in the penalty area, then turned the defence inside out, before clipping a brilliant curling shot into the top right hand corner of Michael Utting’s net.
It was the catalyst for a City revival and the double substitution that allowed Paul Seaman and Keryn Jordan to enter the fray was timely. Jordan had a chance to grab the equaliser moments later when he jinked through the Waitakere box held onto ther ball slightly too long before scuffing a low shot into Utting’s grateful grasp.
With only a minute left to play the game was up for Waitakere when a Neil Sykes cross was driven to the far post for Paul Urlovic to cushion into the path of Grant Young. The 35 year old South African striker doesn’t miss from that range and under those circumstances and he made no mistake driving the ball past a despairing Utting.
Auckland City coach Paul Marshall was understanably ecstatic with the result.
“We had a good defensive shape despite how we conceded the goals – one took a deflection. But we had to grind the result out today and we showed we had plenty of character. Paul Urlovic’s goal was special. In this competition to get a draw here is more like a win so we’re very happy.”
Waitakere United coach Steve Cain was annoyed with a “15 minute loss of concentration” that cost Waitakere the game but denied the players lacked self-belief.
“We had enough decent chances in the first half to win this game and we didn’t take them and it’s come back to haunt us. Auckland City made some changes in the second-half and we didn’t respond to them. We have to learn to deal with when they play the ball long.”
The next match in the OFC O-League is in Group B when Ba take on Marist FC of the Solomon Islands on 29th January, 2007, in Fiji.
The next match in Group A will take place on February 23rd at Trusts Stadium when Waitakere United host New Caledonia champions AS Mont Dore.
Waitakere United: Michael Utting, Rupesh Puna, George Suri, Danny Hay, Hoani Edwards, Allan Pearce (Craig Wylie 80), Commins Menapi, Jeff Campbell, Jakub Sinkora, Daniel Koprivcic (Michael Gwyther 85), Prince Quansah.
Substitutes: Simon Eaddy, Graham Pearce, Pedro Santos, Sam Jasper, Craig Wylie, Sam Mathews, Michael Gwyther.
Auckland City: Ross Nicholson, Ben Sigmund, Jonathan Perry, Liam Mulrooney, James Pritchett (Paul Seaman 52), Jonathan Smith (Keryn Jordan 52), Paul Urlovic, Grant Young, Neil Sykes, Chad Coombes (Luiz del Monte 86), Greg Uhlman.
Substitutes: Paul Seaman, Richard Gillespie, Cole Tinkler, Christoph Pospich, Luiz del Monte, Paul Vodanovich, Keryn Jordan.
Waitakere United 2 (Hay 25, Menapi 48)
Auckland City 2 (Urlovic 73, Young 89)