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Waitakere United claim NZFC title

Diminutive Tom Lancaster fired the Dragons into a sixth minute lead with a well taken shot but a classy strike from Benjamin Totori in the 34th minute levelled the scores just minutes before a red card to Canterbury midfielder Paul Dirou for a high challenge tipped the balance of the final in the home side’s favour.
Man of the match Allan Pearce put Waitakere into the lead 12 into the second half while Totori grabbed his second with just over 17 minutes to play as Waitakere stepped up a gear against a tiring flagging Canterbury outfit.
With the crucial second leg of the O-League final to play at the same venue next Sunday, and Waitakere needing to haul in Hekari’s three goal lead to qualify for the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, player/coach Neil Emblen admitted to some nerves with the camp ahead of today’s battle for domestic silverware.
“We were apprehensive because we’ve come so far, got ourselves into two finals but there’s still the chance you could end up with nothing,” Emblen said.
“That fear of failure does scare you a little bit especially at a club like Waitakere that’s been so successful over the past few years.
“It’s nice to get the first one out the way and now we will start thinking about the Hekari game, how we overturn the lead they’ve got and how we win that competition as well.”
Despite playing in their first final in four years, Canterbury showed no signs of stage fright with target man Russell Kamo providing a solid attacking platform for the likes of Lancaster and Aaron Clapham.
In goal Tom Batty had another assured game and it was his presence of mind to chest a ball and play out quickly from the back that led to Kamo and Clapham to combine to tee up Lancaster for the early opener.
For Waitakere, Totori and Krishna displayed flashes of brilliance and only the foot of Batty stopped Krishna equalising at the end of a mazy run that began near the halfway line.
The ball spun on to the post and back into Batty’s arms and moments later the woodwork denied Krishna again, with a snap shot rattling the cross bar.
Totori then delivered on the glimpses of dangerous promise he had already shown when cutting in from the left and blasting the equaliser past Batty.
Three minutes later, the game well and truly turned toward the home side when Canterbury midfielder Paul Dirou was beaten to the ball by Jason Rowley and only succeeded in catching him high with a raised boot.
“The sending off changed the game and I feel sorry for the lad, although he did go high and it’s one of those challenges that looks bad,” Emblen said.
“Having said that, I thought we had momentum back before the sending off but it may their job a lot harder. “
The second half was dominated by Allan Pearce. Causing havoc on the right flank, Pearce set up Butler who should have done better with his 56th minute effort, and then showed him how to do it with a pinpoint shot across an outstretched Batty to give Waitakere a lead they wouldn’t surrender.
Starving the visitors of visitors of possession and forcing them to spend precious energy on defence, Waitakere grabbed a third goal through Totori, who was slipped a pass from Butler and proceed to tip toe round Batty to seal the victory.
Canterbury coach Keith Braithwaite, who took a Canterbury side that had finished dead last for the previous two seasons almost to the title, said the season bode well for football in the region.
“It’s a foundation. The board of Canterbury United are working hard and have plans for the future. If we do things right then there’s no reason why we can’t be back here in the final next season,” Braithwaite said.
“We’re proud of the lads. We’re very disappointed but we’ve been beaten by a very good Waitakere side. When they break they put us under a lot of pressure and with 10 men they picked holes out and punished us. For playing an hour with 10 men, I thought they we’re fantastic.”
Story courtesy NZF Media.
For the latest NZFC news visit www.nzfc.co.nz

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