Central United hold the key to the NRF Men’s Championship after winning their midweek catch-up game 2-1 against South Auckland Rangers.
However, Central left it late, scoring the winner through Ben Ruffell with only six minutes left on the referee’s watch, and with Rangers down to 10 men.
The win means:
- Central win the Championship on Saturday if they beat sixth-placed Ranui Swanson.
- If Central and Ranui Swanson draw, Papatoetoe can take the title if they beat third-placed Papakura City.
- If Central and Papatoetoe draw, Central win the title.
- If Central lose and Papatoetoe draw with Papakura, the title would go to Papatoetoe on goal difference.
Central can at least control their own destiny after their win under the floodlights at the Croatian Cultural Club ground in Te Atatu South.
They took the lead in the 14th minute through Linus Backman.
However, South Auckland Rangers levelled in the 26th minute when Ronald Kivolyn found the net.
That sent the teams into half-time tied at 1-1.
Two red cards, three yellows for Rangers
Rangers were reduced to 10 men in the 54th minute when Pablo Yackson Carabajal was given a second yellow by referee Glen Lochrie for tripping an opponent.
That led to two more yellow cards for Rangers players as Central pushed for the winner they so badly needed.
In the 84th minute, captain Ruffell got the winner.
Rangers coach Geoff Cooper saw red and was sent from dug out by referee Lochrie.
Rangers’ goalscorer Kivolyn also went into the book to end a messy night for the visitors.
Central United, meanwhile, have set up a climactic last day to their season.
Going into Saturday, at least their fans and supporters of Papatoetoe all know where they stand.
Main photo: Ben Ruffell … scored the winner with six minutes to go. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
Game played on Wednesday September 14, 2022
Central United 2 (Linus Backman 14′, Ben Ruffell 84′)
South Auckland Rangers 1 (Ronald Kivolyn 26′)
Remaining fixtures for the two top teams:
Games to be played on Saturday September 17, 2022
Papatoetoe v Papakura City
Murdoch Park, Papatoetoe, 3pm
Central United v Ranui Swanson
Croatian Cultural Club, Te Atatu South, 3pm