Football: Big win for Otago over Manawatu

Waitakere and Auckland picked up ASB Premiership victories today but it was the explosive clash between Otago and Manawatu that caught the eye with five goals and five red cards.

Leaders Waitakere United remained on track for the minor premiership with a comfortable 3-1 win over Team Wellington in the capital, while Canterbury United surrendered a one goal advantage to lose 3-1 to Auckland City.

But the story of the day came from Palmerston North where a sedate opening half gave no warning of the carnage that was to follow.

Enduring yet another difficult campaign, YoungHeart Manawatu fell behind to a penalty by Aaron Burgess just 11 minutes into their clash with fellow strugglers Otago.

Otago then struck twice in five minutes midway through the second half courtesy of Regan Coldicott, only for the game to explode in a spate of red cards shortly after Burgess scored the fourth from the penalty spot.

Alex Rufer - son of former All White Shane Rufer - was the first to go on 75 minutes and he was joined by teammate Tom Mosquera just two minutes later. Referee Nick Waldron then sent YoungHeart's Dale Higham packing two minutes later for a second bookable offence, reducing the home side to eight.

A solo run by YoungHeart's Suele Soromon resulted in Tom Connor bringing down the Vanuatu international for a penalty and earning the fourth red card of the match. Soromon scored from the penalty mark but there was still time for Waldron to send off one more player, Otago's Matt Joy.

Amid the mayhem, Otago came away with a 4-1 victory, their second away win of the season, which condemned Manawatu to last on the table.

In Christchurch, Canterbury's habit of squandering leads in big matches continued in a result that catapulted Auckland into second place and dropped the Dragons to fourth.

Things started well for Canterbury with Andy Barton's 14th minute header, but that was cancelled out by Alex Feneridis in the 26th minute. Daniel Koprivcic nosed Auckland in front just after halftime and substitute Emiliano Tade sealed the win with his third of the season near the end.

In Napier, playoff chasers Hawkes Bay United took advantage of Canterbury's second consecutive defeat by thumping Waikato FC 4-0 to climb into third.

The playoff picture has a lopsided look to it, with the top four sides racing into the distance and the bottom four now floundering nine points adrift.