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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Menapi and Totori have done it again for Manawatu FC

YOUNGHEART MANAWATU 3 TAFEA FC 3
YoungHeart Manawatu and Auckland City remain on course to meet in Sunday’s US$1 million Oceania Club Championship final after yesterday’s group stage deciders produced a flurry of red cards and an escape act of Harry Houdini proportions.

Auckland will play Fiji’s Eagles United in the first of Friday’s semifinals at North Harbor Stadium before Manawatu face Tahiti champions AS Pirie after the NZFC teams topped their respective groups in contrasting fashion yesterday.

Auckland won group A thanks to an 85th minute Graham little winner in a 1-0 win over Pirae where both teams finished with nine players apiece. Manawatu, meanwhile, fought back from 3-0 down after 50 minutes to draw 3-3 with Tafea FC – a comeback that clinched top spot in group B while condemning the Vanuatu champions to an early exit from the FIFA Club World Cup qualifying tournament.

Tafea appeared semifinal bound when Etienne Merger and Hubert Naked, the latter with a double, gave the Vanuatu club a 3-0 lead by the 49th minute. But Manawatu roared back into the Bill McKinlay Park clash in Mt Wellington with 58th and 72nd minute strikes from Commins Menapi and captain Ian Robinson respectively before Solomon Islands import Benjamin Totori equalised a minute from time. Totori beat two defenders before rifling a shot into the top left-hand corner from an acute angle on the right hand side of the box.

AUCKLAND CITY 1 AS PIRAE 0
Meanwhile, referee Ben Williams produced eight cards in total – half of them red – during the Auckland-Pirae match on North Harbour Stadium’s Domain 3. Auckland defender Paul Vodanovich was the first to go after clipping Naea Bennett from behind in the 40th minute as the Pirea captain – seemingly offside - bore down on goal.

Pirae’s numerical superiority lasted just 21 minutes before Heirani Bennett saw red for a studs up tackle on Auckland’s Matt Cunneen. Cunneen’s midfield mate Chad Coombes was next to receiving an early shower when Williams ruled Combs had deliberately handled on the line in the 79th minute. But Pirae could not capitalise with midfielder Jose Hmae hoofing the resulting penalty way over the crossbar.
Little made Pirae pay when he stabbed home the winner from a goalmouth scramble with five minutes remaining – just three minutes before receiving aN elbow in the nose that saw Area Resopawiro become the fourth player to see red.

Vodanovich and Coombes are both automatically suspended for Friday’s semifinal while Heirani Bennett and Resopawiro could yet face two match bans as their dismissals were for serious foul play and violent conduct respectively. If Oceania does hand down two match suspension, it would see the duo miss the final providing if Pirae were to advance to Sunday’s final.

In yesterday's other matches, Eagles United lost top spot in group B when they were upset 1-0 thanks to Albert Korea’s 84th minute winner for AS Magenta (New Caledonia).

MARIST 7 SOBOU 1
A Jack Samani hat-trick helped Marist FC (Solomon Islands) to overpower Papua New Guinea's Sobou FC 7-1 and finish third in Group A.The all-Melanesian affair started brightly with both sides attacking freely.

Clifford Wate had the best chances of the opening exchanges but squandered two clear opportunities against his countrymen.At the other end, Runa Geasa was kept busy denying Marist on several occasions before Samani opened the scoring after 31 minutes. Six minutes later Samani converted from the penalty spot to make it 2-0, and completed his hat-trick after a delightful slide-rule pass from Titto Wagiro.

Samani turned provider before the break crossing for an unmarked Abraham Iniga at the far post. No sooner had play restarted when Wate pulled a goal back for Sobou.The match was killed nine minutes after the interval with John Wayne adding a fifth for Marist, Wagiro slammed home a sixth from close-range, and substitute Sebastian Misiga rounded off the scoring eight minutes from time.

SEMIFINAL DRAW (Friday, May 19)
Auckland City v Eagles United - North Harbour Stadium Outer Oval (2.30pm)
YoungHeart Manawatu v AS Pirae - North Harbour Stadium No 1 (6pm)

News source: http://www.nzsoccer.com/

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