After losing semi-finals at their last two attempts, Wellington United have finally reached the final of New Zealand football’s premier knockout competition for women.
The Diamonds, as they are known, go into the final of the Kate Sheppard Cup after beating cup holders Eastern Suburbs 1-0 in a tense semi-final at Newtown Park, Wellington.
They will meet Hamilton Wanderers in the final on Sunday March 13, at a venue still to be confirmed by NZ Football.
The matchwinner came from 17-year-old Pepi Olliver-Bell, who learned the game at Onslow Juniors and Onslow College while coming through the grades at United over the past seasons.
Out wide on the right, Olliver-Bell swung a cross goalwards in the 68th minute. It drifted over the head of Suburbs goalkeeper Corina Brown and fell into the goal.
Main photo: The matchwinning goal drifts into the Suburbs net.
The goal spurred Eastern Suburbs into attack mode and they shrugged off a first-half sluggishness, no doubt indicative of their lack of recent play — their last competitive game was played last August.
In the 85th minute, Olivia Page struck the United crossbar with a shot from 35 metres.
A minute later, substitute Dani Levy skimmed the crossbar with a clip from the tight angle.
United slowed down the game and stuck to what they had done best all day, confidently sweeping at the back and forcing Suburbs to shoot from distance.
Hope Gilchrist, playing on her 24th birthday, and her fellow defenders showed how defence can win games, blunting the effectiveness of an opponent long enough to create the chance for victory.
While Suburbs created the most goal chances, United deserved their place in the final by knowing how to soak up pressure and by keeping their collective calm.
How the match unfolded
New name assured for cup inscription
No matter who wins the final, it will be a new name inscribed on the NZ Football Foundation-sponsored trophy.
No team from the capital has ever won the competition since its inception in 1994.
For Wanderers, it’s the first time the club has reached the final.
Hamilton Wanderers v Wellington United
Final, Kate Sheppard Cup
Sunday March 13, 2022
Kick-off: 2pm (to be confirmed)
Venue: To be confirmed
Watch: Sky Sport Next (free to watch).
How they reached the final — Wellington United
Round 1: Beat Kapiti Coast United 8-0 (home)
Round 2: Beat Waterside Karori 3-2 (home)
Round 3: Beat Marist Palmerston North 4-3 (away)
Quarter-final: Beat Wairarapa United 5-1 (home)
Semi-final: Beat Eastern Suburbs 1-0 (home)
Video replay: how the Diamonds won their semi-final
Here’s the recording of the lime-streamed semi-final on Saturday March 5:
How they reached the final — Hamilton Wanderers
Round 2: Beat Bucklands Beach 9-1 (away)
Round 3: Beat Auckland United 4-1 (home)
Quarter-final: Beat Ellerslie 3-1 (home)
Semi-final: Beat Coastal Spirit 3-1 (away)
Video replay: Wanderers get to their first final
Here’s how Wanderers won their semi-final on Saturday February 19:
All the Kate Sheppard Cup results
Click here for full results at the UltimateNZSoccer website >>>>
1994 Nomads United (Christchurch)
1995 Waikato Unicol (Hamilton)
1996 Lynn-Avon United (Auckland)
1997 Three Kings United (Auckland)
1998 Three Kings United (Auckland)
1999 Three Kings United (Auckland)
2000 Lynn-Avon United (Auckland)
2001 Ellerslie (Auckland)
2002 Lynn-Avon United (Auckland)
2003 Lynn-Avon United (Auckland)
2004 Lynn-Avon United (Auckland)
2005 Lynn-Avon United (Auckland)
2006 Lynn-Avon United (Auckland)
2007 Western Springs (Auckland)
2008 Lynn-Avon United (Auckland)
2009 Lynn-Avon United (Auckland)
2010 Claudelands Rovers (Hamilton)
2011 Glenfield Rovers (Auckland)
2012 Three Kings United (Auckland)
2013 Coastal Spirit (Christchurch)
2014 Glenfield Rovers (Auckland)
2015 Glenfield Rovers (Auckland)
2016 Forrest Hill Milford United (Auckland)
2017 Glenfield Rovers (Auckland)
2018 Dunedin Technical (Dunedin)
2019 Eastern Suburbs (Auckland)
2020 No competition
2021 Hamilton Wanders or Wellington United
The Kate Sheppard Cup is supported by the NZ Football Foundation.