Waitakere United have qualified for the 2007 Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) O-League Final on goal difference after drawing 2-2 with Auckland City in a bitter clash at Kiwitea Street today. Two goals from Daniel Koprivcic sent the West Aucklanders into the final for the 21st April and 28th April against Fijian national champions, Ba.
The afternoon began brightly enough for the home side with Auckland City opening the scoring through Keryn Jordan after the South African striker guided the ball home at the far post after 20 minutes. But Waitakere United slowly fought their way back into the match with most of United’s dangerous attacks coming from former New Zealand international Jeff Campbell.
Campbell’s craft and guile saw Waitakere United drew level in the 32nd minute when Campbell played an intelligent wall pass with Solomon Islands international Commins Menapi before jinking his way past the Auckland City defence and firing a left foot shot across Ross Nicholson who could only palm the ball into the path of the grateful United striker Daniel Koprivcic who made no mistake from close range.
United stunned the home support just 3 minutes later when Jeff Campbell collected a clearance on the edge of the box and threaded a pass through for the pacy Koprivcic to latch onto and rifle past Nicholson into the top right hand corner of the net.
Auckland City went in at the break trailing 2-1 but spurned a glorious chance to level the game just two minutes into the second half when Chad Coombes took a wild swipe at a Grant Young cross from just outside the six yard box when it looked easier to score. City continued to create a series of half-chances with Keryn Jordan going closest with a right foot shot from an acute angle that trundled past Michael Utting’s far post.
Matters were complicated further for Auckland City when referee Rakesh Varman gave a straight red card for Riki Van Steedan after the left back put in a solid challenge into the back of Waitakere United goal hero Daniel Koprivcic. Reduced to ten men Auckland City worked hard to recover the deficit with game becoming a rugged slugfest as both sides fought for their O-League survival.
Waitakere United looked like they would qualify for the final and end their 11 match winless streak against Auckland City but Keryn Jordan threw City a lifeline with a 94th minute goal after hitting a right foot long range effort inside Utting’s left hand post. Waitakere held on to edge out their rivals with Auckland’s only consolation on the day the extension of their unbeaten run against the visitors. With the scores locked at 2-2 referee Rakesh Varman blew for fulltime with scenes of jubilation quickly turning ugly as players from both sides clashed on halfway amid acrimonious scenes at Kiwitea Street.
Auckland City’s only remaining chance of involvement in the next edition of the OFC O-League will come when they play Waitakere United in the NZFC Final at North Harbour Stadium, Monday 16th April, 2007. If Auckland City lose, Youngheart Manawatu will clinch New Zealand’s second O-League berth.