Cashmere Technical, Napier City Rovers and Auckland City all registered wins on the opening day of the new Men’s National League season.
Technical put four goals past a lacklustre Miramar Rangers, Napier beat Wellington Phoenix with a gem of a goal and an under-par Auckland City still managed to shade a dangerous-looking Wellington Olympic.
Here’s our round-up of Saturday’s games:
Main photo: Cashmere’s Kian Donkers … celebrates scoring his side’s fourth goal.
Out-of-sorts Auckland City grind out win
Auckland City didn’t deliver their best version of themselves but they did enough to grind out a 2-1 win against Wellington Olympic at Whitby’s Endeavour Park.
On the balance of goalscoring chances, Olympic should have won but City’s dogged approach and a fine performance by goalkeeper Conor Tracey earned them their win.
The first half might have been void of goals but it was filled with incidents.
Olympic had the ball in the City net after 20 minutes when Jonty Roubos struck a stinging shot from the edge of the area, only to have the effort disallowed because Gianni Bouzoukis was offside and obstructing goalkeeper Conor Tracey.
In the 28th minute, Tracey pulled off an excellent save when he turned a close-range shot from Jesse Randall over the bar, after he’d met a Jack-Henry Sinclair cross on the full.
Bouzoukis had a shot saved by Tracey in the 35th minute, as Olympic poured on the pressure.
It took 41 minutes before Auckland City created their first clear chance, sending winger Joe Lee into the box only for him to fire over the bar.
As half-time approached, Olympic had yet another chance when Kailan Gould forced another save from Tracey.
When the second half began, it was clear Auckland City wanted to step up the pace and look to penetrate the Olympic defence.
Almost immediately, it paid off.
Lee fed the ball low into the penalty area for striker Ryan de Vries to efficiently steer the ball past ‘keeper Scott Basalaj and into the net.
As the half continued, Olympic worked their way back into contention.
The breakthrough came in the 74th minute when Sinclair burst forward and sent a dangerous ball across the face of the goal for Bouzoukis to steer into the net.
It was a splendid way for Bouzoukis to celebrate his 100th appearance for Olympic.
Just when it looked like the game might turn in Olympic’s favour, Auckland City came up with the game-turning goal.
Substitute Emiliano Tade took back-to-back corners, sending vicious inswingers into the penalty area.
The first was dealt with, tipped over the bar by Basalajl; the second skidded off the head of Tor Davenport-Petersen and into the net.
The game became messy in its final minutes, with free kicks and fraying tempers slowing down play.
Olympic players felt they had been denied a penalty, claiming City’s Alfie Rogers had handled on the goalline.
The whistle finally went, the result adding weight to the adage that champion teams are those that play poorly but still manage to win.
Cashmere Technical off to a strong start
Cashmere Technical showed they will be competitive in this year’s league with an emphatic 4-0 win against Miramar Rangers at English Park.
The home side always had the upper hand and punished Rangers for defensive lapses.
Technical took the lead in the 26th minute when Rangers failed to clear a corner and the ball was played wide to the always-threatening Lyle Matthysen.
His cross was met with a thundering header from defender Andrew Storer, still in the box from the corner, who goes into the record books as the first goalscorer of the 2022 National League season.
A few minutes later, disaster for Rangers as defender Liam Wood mistimed a tackle on Matthysen, and referee Luke Gardner had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot.
Technical’s top goalscorer from the Southern League season, Garbhan Coughlan, calmly slotted the ball home from the spot.
The teams went into half-time with Cashmere Technical looking good for their 2-0 lead and the question was whether Miramar would be able to regroup.
The answer didn’t take long as Technical again exploited poor organisation at the back for Rangers, robbing them of the ball and sending Matthysen free on the left.
He lined up a shot from the edge of the area and he struck it hard and low, inside the near post.
In the 78th minute, substitute striker Kian Donkers made it 4-0 when he raced onto a long ball and calmly poked it past goalkeeper Jack de Groot.
The only solace for Rangers came in added time when the home side was willing to let them have the ball as long as they struggled to find a way forward.
In the sixth minute of stoppage time, Saul Milovanovich struck the crossbar, providing Rangers with their only near-miss of a difficult first day.
Moment of magic wins opener for Rovers
An even contest between Napier City Rovers and Wellington Phoenix was decided by a moment of magic conjured up by forward Sam Lack who scored the winner off the bench for Rovers.
The teams had played out a scoreless first half and it became increasingly clear that one goal might be enough to settle the points at Napier’s Bluewater Stadium.
So it was.
In the 72nd minute, Rovers won possession from a drop ball and the ball was played back to defender James Hoyle.
He pinged a long ball to Canadian import Leaford Allen who laid off the perfect pass to 18-year-old substitute Sam Lack.
He twisted and turned, sending defenders the wrong way, before coolly lining up a shot past Phoenix ‘keeper Alex Paulsen.
It was a goal deserving of the win, and it gives Rovers the ideal start to their season.
Phoenix worked hard but could not break down the Rovers defence, anchored by goalkeeper Oscar Mason who had the satisfaction of keeping a clean sheet against many of his New Zealand teammates, fresh from their OFC U-19 Championship success in Tahiti.
A surprise inclusion in the Phoenix line-up was first-team player and All Whites forward Ben Old.
Games played on Saturday October 1, 2022
Cashmere Technical 4 (Andrew Storer 27′, Garbhan Coughlan 30′ pen, Lyle Matthysen 55′, Kian Donkers 79′)
Miramar Rangers 0
Napier City Rovers 1 (Sam Lack 72′)
Wellington Phoenix 0
Wellington Olympic 1 (Gianni Bouzoukis 74′)
Auckland City 2 (Ryan de Vries 48′, own goal 84′)
Games to be played on Sunday October 2, 2022
Birkenhead United v Christchurch United
Shepherds Park, Birkenhead, 1pm
Watch: Game live on Sky Sport 7
Auckland United v Melville United
Keith Hay Park, Mt Roskill, 3pm