"Lilywhites" Lead As Cross-Town Rivals Stumble
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By Jeremy Ruane
Eastern Suburbs have taken over at the top of the Stirling Sports Premiership after fifth round action produced a couple of surprise results, and a first competition win for Tasman United.
"The Lilywhites" put Southern United to the sword at Bill McKinlay Park, prevailing 4-0 after Armin Pasagic's early penalty found the net, unlike that taken by Southern's Danny Ledwith soon afterwards, which was saved by Silvio Rodic.
Suburbs had the bit between their teeth after this, and piled on the pressure against a Southern side whose resistance was broken once more ten minutes before half-time, Pasagic potting his second goal of the game to put the league leaders in waiting in the box seat.
The visitors looked to respond positively, and hit the bar six minutes before half-time. But seven minutes into the second spell they fell further behind when Luke Adams headed home from a corner.
Andy Mulligan, in particular, was trying desperately to get the visitors on the board, but all his efforts were for nought, unlike that of Fabien Kurimata, who wrapped up the scoring nineteen minutes from time with a thumping drive.
Suburbs lead because incumbents Auckland City slumped to their second defeat of the campaign, Logan Rogerson's late winner clinching a 1-0 triumph for Wellington Phoenix at Dave Farrington Park.
The visitors had plenty of chances to break the deadlock in the opening twenty minutes of the contest, but Lewis Italiano stood firm twixt the sticks for the "Nix", who looked to get a grip on the game through the efforts of Matthew Ridenton and Rogerson before Joao Moreira went close again just before half-time.
More City pressure followed at the start of the second spell, but it was the home team who went close to breaking the deadlock when Ridenton's free-kick drew a fine save from Danyon Drake, who later denied a Louis Fenton effort.
It was Italiano who was the busier 'keeper, however, Clayton Lewis and Emiliano Tade having reason aplenty to bemoan Wellington's custodian as the half wore on. But four minutes from time, a swift counter-attack saw substitute Sarpreet Singh slip a pass into the stride of Rogerson, who steered home Wellington's winner beyond the diving figure of Drake.
It wasn't a great day for teams from NZ's true home of football against opponents from the city whose fans aspire to claim that title for themselves. (They can but dream!)
Waitakere United came a cropper at Trusts Arena, where reigning champions Team Wellington earned a 2-0 win thanks to a Ben Harris free-kick just after the hour mark, and a stoppage time clincher from Nic Zambrano.
Harris had the ball in the back of the net just after the half-hour mark, but the goal was ruled out for an infringement. Before the interval, Tom Shaw went close for United, while Dylan Stansfield had strong penalty claims turned away on the stroke of half-time.
But the visitors weren't to be denied in the second spell, and moved into the top four with this win, coach Jose Figueira turning things round quickly after Wellington lost their first two matches of the campaign.
Canterbury United retained their unbeaten start to the season at Bluewater Stadium, but only just - Stephen Hoyle's stoppage time equaliser earning them a 1-1 draw with Hawkes Bay United, for whom Saul Halpin netted his fifth goal of the season.
Hoyle it was who went closest to breaking the deadlock on the half-hour mark, following a tight opening stanza between two teams who have previous where play-off ambitions are concerned.
But it was the visitors who should have won this game, and the main reason they didn't stemmed from an Aaron Spain goal just before half-time, which wasn't flagged for offside but was ultimately ruled out because of such an infringement.
The woodwork was also rattled three times by Canterbury, with Hoyle, Tom Schwarz and Aaron Clapham all frustrated in this regard, while Bay 'keeper Josh Hill kept his side in the contest with some fine saves.
The home team had Martin Canales sent off twenty minutes into the second half, but the ten men rallied to earn a penalty ten minutes later, which Halpin despatched to leave Canterbury on the verge of losing the league's lone remaining unbeaten record. Thanks to Hoyle's late late show effort, that record remains intact for another week.
Tasman's maiden National League win came at the expense of Hamilton Wanderers, with the visitors coming out on top by the odd goal in five in a lively affair at Porritt Stadium.
The tone was set inside the opening quarter hour, during which both goalnets bulged. Godwin Darkwa did the honours for the home team in the twelfth minute, but United were soon on level terms thanks to Tinashe Marowa.
Both teams had great chances to take the lead before the interval, with Tasman squandering a one-on-one before Hamilton were denied a penalty when Jack Salter was brought to earth in the area.
The home team came desperately close to breaking the deadlock when Raymond Gunemba rattled a post seven minutes into the second spell, a feat he repeated fifteen minutes later, by which time both Tasman's Tom Fawdry and Hamilton's Matt Oliver had been called upon to maintain the 1-1 scoreline by way of fine saves.
With five minutes left, a draw looked most likely, so pity those who left early to beat the rush, etc.. Ermal Hajdari fired Tasman in front four minutes from time courtesy a defensive error, only for substitute Marc Evans to level things up once more as the game moved into stoppage time.
There were seconds left on the clock when Alex Ridsdale restored Tasman's lead, earning them a 3-2 victory, their first in top flight football, and one which lifts them to within a win of fifth spot, as well as a point of their vanquished hosts.
Next weekend's action kicks off on Friday evening, with Southern welcoming Wellington Phoenix to Forsyth Barr Stadium. And there are two matches apiece on both Saturday and Sunday.
The title-holders entertain "The Lilywhites" at Dave Farrington Park on Saturday, a day on which this round's televised action will also take place as Auckland and Hawkes Bay lock horns at Kiwitea Street in what will be the home team's final match on home soil before departing for the FIFA Club World Cup Finals.
On the Sabbath, Canterbury and Hamilton clash at English Park, while another bumper crowd is expected at Trafalgar Park as Tasman take on Waitakere.
Eastern Suburbs 4 (A. Pasagic (15 pen, 34), L. Adams (52), F. Kurimata (71)), Southern United 0 HT 2-0.
Hamilton Wanderers 2 (G. Darkwa (12), M. Evans (90)), Tasman United 3 (T. Marowa (16), E. Hajdari (86), A. Ridsdale (90)) HT 1-1.
Hawkes Bay United 1 (S. Halpin (75 pen)), Canterbury United 1 (S. Hoyle (90)) HT 1-0.
Waitakere United 0, Team Wellington 2 (B. Harris (63), N. Zambrano (90)) HT 0-0.
Wellington Phoenix 1 (L. Rogerson (86)), Auckland City 0 HT 0-0.