Southern United put up a stoic effort in the National League final, losing 2-0 to Auckland United at Mt Smart Stadium this afternoon.
It was a historic occasion for the Dunedin side, reaching their first ever national final, and settling for silver after only playing their 10th game for the season – compared to their opponents 26th – in the final.
Spurred on by the small but mighty pockets of Southern supporters, Southern were class in big patches throughout the final, and players and staff can still hold their heads high after a remarkable season.
They just let Auckland creep in and make their chances count. Alexis Cook’s finish in the 25th minute was all class and Maisy Dewell punished Southern with her shot in the second half.
Southern had the better of their opportunities in the opening 20 minutes.
Striker Amy Hislop’s header banged into the crossbar and a couple of other shots went begging.
Yume Harashima was penalised for a foul on Margi Dias at the top of the box.
Smith stepped up to take the kick, but her attempt went over the goal.
Southern controlled most of the ball in those early stages, pressuring Auckland to scramble on defence.
That was until Rene Wasi, who was dangerous when given the chance, stole the ball back off Southern as they tried to exit their end.
She slid the ball across to Cook at the right edge of the box, who made no mistake finding the back of the net to give Auckland a 1-0 lead against the run of play.
It gave Auckland the confidence to create more space for themselves on attack, but Southern’s defensive line were solid, pushing Auckland high and not letting them back in.
Dias was fouled again, this time by Danielle Canham, but again Southern were unable to connect and make the most of it.
They struggled to find the finesse on their finishing pass to score in the opening half, trailing 1-0 at the break.
Jemma Wilson and Tahlia Roome replaced Freya Partridge-Moore and Bee Park at halftime, injecting speed down the flanks.
Roome and Hislop’s shots were saved by Auckland goalkeeper Aimee Hall, but things seemed to be starting to stick for Southern.
That unravelled in the 57th minute when Auckland pounced to double their lead.
Chelsea Elliott banged her free kick towards the goal and goalkeeper Lauren Paterson came off her line to punch it away.
But those in front were unable to exit the ball, and instead it fell to Dewell who scored, bringing the lead to 2-0.
Paterson, however, made a stunning save several minutes later, jumping high to swat Elliott’s shot over goal.
Southern continued to battle away and really had their moments, just lacking the accuracy, with Auckland’s defence working hard to keep them out.
In the curtain raiser, Wellington Olympic beat Auckland City 2-0 in the men’s National League final.
National League final
Auckland United 2
Alexis Cook 25’, Maisy Dewell 57’
Southern United 0
Halftime: Auckland 1-0