O-League pendulum swings way of Waitakere and Tafea
Striker Allan Pearce scored the only goal of the match for Waitakere in a fiercely contested 1-0 win at the Croatian Cultural Society in Henderson while Samson Obed provided the late dramatics for Tafea scoring an 84th minute match winner to make it 2-1 and leave Ba’s O-League hopes hanging by a thread.
In a physical match in Auckland it was Waitakere’s experienced hardnosed approach that produced the result. It leaves Auckland City with a big hill to climb, needing nothing less than two wins on the road against AS Manu Ura in Tahiti, and Auckland again at Fred Taylor Park.
Both sides struggled to find any momentum in a game plagued by fouls and free kicks. This suited Waitakere the best and they always looked dangerous from set pieces, most notably Danny Hay who rattled the post with a towering header in the sixth minute.
Auckland goalkeeper Tamati Williams wasn’t again troubled until midway through the second half when a moment of sheer class from Waitakere turned the game. Substitute Commins Menapi expertly held up a long ball from the back and laid it back for experienced defender Darren Bazely. Bazely with only one man in the box measured his cross inch perfect and found Pearce between two Auckland defenders and he managed to guide his header inside Williams near post.
Pearce’s goal brought the visiting side to life and City dominated the second half, creating a number of half chances but lacked a ruthless cutting edge in front of goal. Paul Urlovic, Grant Young and Chad Coombes all went close late in the game for Auckland but could get no reward for their endeavour.
Waitakere coach Chris Milicich was elated with the result and said he knew it wasn’t going to be a game for the purists.
“With everything at stake it was never going to be pretty,” he said. “But I am very proud of my guys tonight. We were tough, strong and everything we needed to do we did.”
Auckland City coach Colin Tuaa was resolute in defeat.
“The game was very stop and start,” said Tuaa. We never found our flow and didn’t get our momentum going with our passing. It became a set play match and that didn’t work to our advantage.”
“The next month it’s really important that we start to develop our play more. We’re getting results in the NZFC but we need to play smoother and perform in the big games. We haven’t quite found the right balance in midfield but it’s something we’re working on.”
Waitakere now sit four points clear in Group A and will face Auckland again on April 2nd in a match which will decide who progresses through to the final.
In Port Villa Tafea’s 2-1 win over Fiji champions BA has blown Group B wide open.
Goals to Vanuatu internationals Jean Nako Naprapol and Samson Obed cancelled out a sensational strike from Avinesh Swamy.
Ba's heartache was compounded in the 52nd minute when Malakai Tiwa saw his penalty saved by veteran Tafea FC goalkeeper David Chilia, who stopped Tiwa's spot-kick with his legs before seeing the ball strike the crossbar.
Tafea's first OFC O-League win means that all three clubs still have a chance of sealing top spot in the group with all eyes turning to Kossa's match against Ba on Monday 25th February at Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara.