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AFF Futsal claim national title

The result never really looked in doubt, from the moment Auckland’s Kareem Osman cut inside his marker to drill a low shot past South goalkeeper Fraser Hunter in the fourth minute.
Dylan Manickum gave the home side a 2-0 cushion with a fine solo effort after 10 minutes, capitalising on an under hit pass to speed down the court and round Hunter to finish.
Auckland coach Nathan Robertson took full advantage of the experience and depth across his squad to control the tempo of the remainder of the first half and following the break, veteran Bakr Al Saudi was on hand at the back post to finish a sweeping counter attack instigated by Manickum to put the game beyond South’s reach.
A tired and depleted South squad fought valiantly in the latter stages of the match, and despite some forays into the opposition half, they could not find a way through a resolute Auckland defence. With two minutes left on the clock, Manickum combined brilliantly with skipper Marvin Eakins to put Osman clear again, with the Futsal White marksman finishing clinically from wide to seal victory for his side.
In scoring his fifteenth goal of the season, Osman claimed the Golden Boot and also laid to rest the ‘ghosts’ of previous lost national league finals while skippering this year’s beaten semi-finalists Capital.
“I’ve played in five finals and continued to get a silver medal, so it’s a relief”, Osman said.
“We had a good game plan and we were mostly sticking to what we knew we could do, in getting guys isolated who could take people one v one. We did that early and got some momentum.”
Robertson was particularly pleased with his side’s third title in six seasons, and the first one captured on their home court following victories in Wellington in 2012 and Napier in 2013.
“(The win) is right up there. To go through two series’ unbeaten having lost a couple of games to Capital, basically it was all about finals footy. My boys deserve the victory and it was a great team effort,” Robertson said.
“A lot of the youth guys stood up and took control and that’s the development we’ve put in to these guys, bringing them through. Credit to the senior players also, in being able to cope and work together. This team has great depth and great opportunities for up and comers as well.”
For Darren Hart’s South, the disappointment of losing in their first ever final was tempered somewhat by an excellent showing in the finals series, and in particular their performance in an unforgettable semi-final, in which the nine man South squad shocked title favourites and minor premiers Capital 6-0 in an outstanding display of counter attacking futsal.
“You are never happy to lose, there’s always that air of disappointment, but ultimately when we look back with hindsight we’ll be pretty proud of where we’ve come out,” Hart said.
“Nobody would have given us much of a chance taking on Capital…we put a lot into that semi-final. But on reflection, it’s the first time Futsal South have made the final and we’ll come back next year and hopefully take it one step further.”
Futsal Whites Head Coach Scott Gilligan, who led the league’s Technical Study Group, said the loss in 2015 of some of the overseas players who featured in previous editions of the league was offset by the emergence of some potential future Futsal Whites.
“(Overall) I think we missed a little bit of the flair of those Brazilians from Mainland but it was good to see some of the young boys like Rahan Ali – what a find he is. We’ve also got Harrison Gregory, in the national league for his fifth year – and what a year he’s had – he was outstanding. You’ve got some really good young players coming through. Once the OFC Futsal Championship is over we can start to look at what we can do with these boys in the next four year cycle.”
Earlier in the weekend Capital claimed top spot in the 14 match round-robin phase, with Auckland, Central-Manawatu and South joining the Wellingtonians in the playoffs.
In the semi-finals on Sunday morning, Rahan Ali starred for South with a hat trick in their victory over Capital, while Dylan Manickum booked Auckland’s final slot with a return-to-form treble against the vastly improved Central-Manawatu side led by overall National League MVP Adam Cowan.
NZF Futsal National League 2015 – awards
MVP Adam Cowan (Central-Manawatu)
Golden Boot Kareem Osman (Auckland) 15 goals
Golden Glove Fraser Hunter (Futsal South)
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football


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