AUCKLAND – Waitakere United are New Zealand Football Championship Minor-Premiers-in-waiting with one game to play while Wellington are in pole position to claim a home preliminary final after both recorded victories in the penultimate round of league action.
Commins Menapi grabbed both goals in the second half of Waitakere’s 2-0 win over Hawke’s Bay United on Saturday, the first just minutes after Hawke’s Bay’s Ian Hogg was sent off for an attempted studs-up tackle.
Graham Fyfe missed a penalty and a chance to get Hawke’s Bay back in the game after Waitakere’s Neil Emblen was also sent off in the 77th minute.
The win all-but clinched the league title, a home Grand Final, and a place in next year’s O-League for Waitakere, as they became the first team in the league’s four year history to reach the 50 point mark.
Team Wellington or Auckland City – both on 47 points – could also reach that mark when the two sides clash at Kiwitea Street next week.
One more point against Otago next Sunday would clinch the title for Waitakere although with a healthy goal differential of +37, it would take an unlikely score line between Wellington (+31) and Auckland (+27) to bridge the gap even if Waitakere lose at Carisbrook.
Wellingtonmade the most of Auckland’s O-League enforced absence to move into second place with a 3-1 win over Otago United at Newtown Park on Sunday and now just need a draw at Kiwitea Street to claim home advantage a week later in the preliminary final.
With the league runners-up awarded New Zealand’s second O-League spot should the Minor Premiers also win the Grand Final, Wellington will be relieved they overcame Colin Falvey’s seventh minute opener with goals to Luis Corrales (2) and Daniel Ellensohn to set up next week’s showdown in Auckland.
It’s a big week for Auckland who also face a do-or-die midweek encounter with Waitakere United for a place in the O-league final, after beating Tahitian champions AS Manu Ura 1-0 in Papeete on Saturday night thanks to George Suri’s late winner.
However Waitakere – leaders of their O-League group by one point over Auckland – just need a draw on Wednesday evening at Trusts Stadium to make the two-legged final against Kossa FC from the Solomon Islands.
Meanwhile, YoungHeart Manawatu ended their seven match losing streak on Sunday with a thrilling 5-4 win over Waikato FC in Mount Maunganui.
Waikato’s Steven Holloway and Manawatu’s Gouzalo Nires both grabbed hat-tricks in an end-to-end encounter between two sides playing for little but pride.
Nieres’ third goal – his 11th of the season – sealed the win in the 80th minute and left him just one goal behind Team Wellington’s Graham Little in the golden boot race.
Goals to YoungHeart’s Daniel Chavez and Ian Robinson, and an Adam Cowan own goal rounded out the scoring.
Round 20 Results
Waitakere United 2 (Commins Menapi 50/69)
Hawke’s Bay United 0
AS Manu Ura 0
Auckland City 1 (George Suri 82)
Waikato FC 4 (Own goal 6, Holloway 13/56/77)
YoungHeart Manawatu 5 (Gouzalo Nieres 1/21/80, Ian Robinson 27, Daniel Chavez 48)
Team Wellington 3 (Luis Corrales 44/90, Daniel Ellensohn 46)
Otago United 1 (Colin Falvey 7)
Story Courtesy of NZF Media. For full details visit www.nzsoccer.com