A seven-goal thriller between East Coast Bays and Waitemata heralded the start of a new Lotto NRFL first division season which saw red cards, late goals and the claiming of bragging rights in the MAP-Metro local derby.
Waitemata beat Bays 4-3 in a frantic game that saw the NRFL’s first goal of the year, its first red card and a see-saw game that had spectators enthralled.
Waitemata’s Stuart Davies scored the NRFL’s first goal of 2022 when he netted in the second minute of their game against East Coast Bays at Bay City Park.
Nine minutes later, Bays’ task became even more difficult when Daewook Kim was shown the first red card of the new season.
Waitemata took full advantage, adding goals from Muhammad Mohebbie and Arnold Kochasire to lead 3-0 at the half-hour.
Bays found a lifeline as the first half entered added time when Keegan Kelly reduced the deficit, sending the teams into the break with the visitors 3-1 ahead.
Waitemata stuttered again in the opening salvoes of the second half, conceding an own goal through Jessie Smith and then allowing Bays substitute Oscar Garcia tie up the game at 3-3 with 25 minutes left.
Bays coach Joe Hall and Waitemata’s Hamish Mackay both turned to their benches as their sides went toe-to-toe.
With seven minutes left, Waitema skipper Shane Tanner found the winner to end a game in which eight players went into referee Brandon Day’s book.
Tauranga find winner in added time
In Tauranga, a goal from Colby Brennan three minutes into added time gave Tauranga City a 2-1 win against newly-promoted Onehunga Mangere United.
The Barry Gardiner-coached Tauranga side took the lead after 14′ through 17-year-old Mirko Brinkmann, a youngster who spent three weeks with English club Fulham when he was 12, as part of his development with the Ricki Herbert Football Academy.
Trailing 1-0, the day worsened for new Onehunga coach Paul Marshall when he watched his leading goalscorer from last year, Gilberto Souza, given his marching orders with a straight red in the 37th minute.
The Aucklanders showed fight and found an equaliser through Abraham Khalil five minutes into the second spell.
Ten-man United went oh-so-close to claiming a point but Brennan found the decider as referee Andres Castro took the game into added time.
Ponies spoil party for ‘Rewa
In South Auckland, Ellerslie skipper Seb Poelman grabbed the winner for the Ponies as they spoiled Manurewa’s Jellicoe Park party.
Manurewa had brought in the University of Auckland cheerleaders to warm up the home crowd but it was Ellerslie’s Shukrullah Rezaie who raised the volume when he scored after 25 minutes.
Manurewa struck back almost immediately through Mohammed Nabeel and the sides turned around at 1-1.
Three minutes into the second spell, Poelman scored what turned out to be the game-changer.
For Ellerslie head coach Ben Fletcher, who made use of new regulations to use four of his subs, it was the best possible start to a new season.
Black day for Metro in local derby
In the local derby of the day, Mt Albert Ponsonby emerged with three points and bragging rights, thanks to goals from skipper Lewis Black who scored one in each half to sink Metro FC 2-0.
Black copped a yellow card after half an hour but redeemed himself a few minutes later, scoring his side’s first goal of the season.
In the second half, MAP doubled their lead with the goal being credited to Black though teammate Jared Colligan was later claiming credit.
Regardless of whose name ends up on the Golden Boot chart, it was enough to settle the derby.
Relegated Rovers off to a winning start
At McFetridge Park, Northern Rovers got their season off to a winning start when Jack Pirie broke the deadlock two minutes into the second half to give his side a 1-0 win against Albany United.
For Rovers, relegated from the Northern League last year, the clean sheet was as valuable as Pirie’s goal.
With the exception of MAP’s 2-0 win against Metro, all of the opening day games were decided by a single goal margin — evidence, perhaps, that predictions of an extremely tight competition will prove correct.
Games played Saturday March 26, 2022
East Coast Bays 3 (Keegan Kelly 45+1′, Jesse Smith OG 51′, Oscar Garcia 65′)
Waitemata 4 (Stuart Davies 2′, Muhammad Mohebbie 25′, Arnold Kochasira30′, Shane Tanner 83′)
Manurewa 1 (Mohammed Nabeel 33′)
Ellerslie 2 (Shukrullah Rezaie 25′, Seb Poelman 48′)
Mt Albert Ponsonby 2 (Lewis Black 37′, 68′)
Metro FC 0
Northern Rovers 1 (Jack Pirie 47′)
Albany United 0
Tauranga City 2 (Mirko Brinkmann 14′, Colby Brennan 90+3′)
Onehunga Mangere United 1 (Abraham Khalil 50′)
West Coast Rangers v Fencibles United
Postponed due to COVID-related issues