Otago United's Thomas Connor (centre) heads clear on the
goal-line, watched by team-mate Craig Ferguson, as Auckland
City's Adam Dickinson challenges during an ASB Premiership
match at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin yesterday. Photo
by Gerard O'Brien.
Otago United led Auckland City - the top team in the
country - 1-0 with eight minutes to go at Forsyth Barr Stadium
yesterday. And then the referee intervened.
Campbell-Kirk Waugh decided Regan Coldicott took too long at
a throw in and reduced Otago to 10 men, inspiring an Auckland
resurgence that eventually clinched a 3-1 result.
Prior to Coldicott's sending off, Otago had led 1-0 since
Aaron Burgess scored in the 62nd minute.
The ASB Premiership at the FB Stadium was always going to be
an uphill struggle against a star-studded Auckland side which
in a month will be playing against the likes of Manchester
United in FIFA's World Club Cup championship in Japan.
But Otago showed old-fashioned resilience in a tight
defensive shape that Auckland struggled to breach.
Centreback Matt Joy led Otago's uncompromising backline with
a superb personal display, closely followed by faultless
performances from keeper Liam Little, Craig Ferguson, Thomas
Connor and Tristan Prattley.
Sometimes it was a desperate tackle that thwarted Auckland,
but as often as not, the Otago defence played calm football
and worked the ball forward with good passing movements.
Predictably, Auckland held the lion's share of ball
possession, and flattered to deceive with intricate patterns
that foundered on Otago's rock-like defence.
Coach Richard Murray was off the bench dancing when his
strategy of deep defence and spring-like counterattack
punished Auckland by scoring in a classic counterpunching
attack in the 62nd minute.
Andrew Ridden set Regan Coldicott free on the left, his pace
caused panic, and a driven cross at Auckland's near post had
keeper Tamati Williams sprawling, as Aaron Burgess clipped in
a well taken goal.
Burgess had been ably assisted by continual lung-bursting
runs from youngster Joel Stevens, who several times
embarrassed the languid northerners' defensive line led by
former international Ivan Vicelich.
Morgan Day also put himself about and showed tight control,
fullback Connor slammed on some tackles that caused sparks,
and when Victor da Costa went lame, Seamus Ryder
enthusiastically joined the fray.
Losing the French midfielder was a disappointment, but
nothing like the agony when referee Waugh reduced Otago to 10
men in the 79th minute by sending off Coldicott for a
supposed time-wasting "infringement".
Coach Murray could barely control his disbelief.
"We were still one goal ahead, but to lose a pair of legs at
that stage was critical. Our whole team had run its socks
off, and predictably Auckland started to buzz," he said.
In the last eight minutes, Auckland's jack-in-the box striker
Luiz Corrales at last found some daylight and scored twice.
Alex Feneridis also got on the scoresheet.
Auckland coach Ramon Tribulietx praised Otago's tight
defensive pattern and the team's spirit.
"We had to just persist with our passing game, and eventually
finish better in front of goal which we did," he said.
A shell-shocked Murray praised his troops who definitely
"deserved something from the game, through brave defending
and scoring a top goal against the league leader, but
football can be very cruel, especially with eight minutes to
go ..." he said.
Otago United 1
Regan Coldicott 62
Auckland City 3
Luis Corrales 85, 90+2, Alex Feneridis 89