Auckland clubs fill the top three spots in the Men’s National League after the completion of second-round games over the weekend.
In Sunday matches, Central League champions Wellington Olympic showed their class with an impressive 4-0 win against Melville United in Hamilton.
In Wellington, the Phoenix reserves shared a 2-2 draw with Auckland United.
Main photo: Olympic’s Gianni Bouzoukis scores from close range against Melville United.
10-man United fight back to claim 2-2 draw in Wellington
Auckland United were forced to recover a two-goal deficit and then play a man short for 20 minutes to gain a 2-2 draw with the Wellington Phoenix reserves.
Playing at a blustery Sky Stadium, the Phoenix took the lead after 19 minutes when Charlie Beale struck a well-placed shot from just outside the area when given too much space.
Ten minutes later, Riley Bidois showed skill when he cleverly nodded a ball into space and then ran onto the ball, steering it past ‘keeper Mack Waite.
At the other end, Phoenix ‘keeper Alby Kelly-Heald pulled off a point-blank save to thwart United’s best attack of the opening half-hour.
But a minute later, Auckland United pulled back a goal when Regont Murati dashed down the right flank and with the defence expecting a cross, he smashed the ball from the acutest of angles and it flew into the net.
In the second half, United coach Jose Figuera introduced Nic Zambrano and Hiroyoshi Kamata from the bench.
They combined in the 67th minute to produce a well-worked equaliser, with Zambrano laying off a well-weighted ball for Kamata to slot home.
At that stage, it looked as though United were in the ascendency. But in the 71st minute, United skipper Ross Haviland brought down Phoenix wideman Noah Karunaratne, earning his second yellow card.
Down to 10, United did well to sufficiently starve the Phoenix of possession for the late stages of the game, and they deserved their point.
Impressive Olympic put four past Melville
Wellington Olympic put together an impressive performance to spoil Melville’s 24-year wait to host national league football again, beating the Waikato side 4-0 at Gower Park.
The visitors shaded Melville 1-0 in the first half but increased their control of the play in a second spell that saw them pull clear.
Olympic took the lead in the 17th minute when good play by Jesse Randall saw Kailan Gould receive the ball in space outside the area.
Gould took a touch, set up his shot and hammered it into the roof of the net.
In the 36th minute, Olympic were awarded a penalty when Melville defender Cameron Brown dragged down a player.
Melville did not contest the decision but after consultation with his assistant, referee CK Kawana-Waugh changed his decision, and ordered play to restart with an uncontested drop ball in favour of Melville.
Having turned around 1-0 up, Olympic took the initiative, scoring their second in the 52nd minute.
Justin Gulley claimed possession in midfield and threaded a pass through to Jack-Henry Sinclair who controlled it and fired it past ‘keeper Max Tommy from 12 metres.
Three minutes later, the visitors stretched their lead to 3-0 with the move of the match.
Half a dozen players combined to move the ball end to end, providing Sinclair with the chance to shoot from an angle. His shot rebounded off the underside of the bar, for Gianni Bouzoukis to tap across the line.
The traffic was turning one way, and ‘keeper Tommy saved a vicious long-range effort, turning it past the post.
In the 63rd minute, Melville’s Josh Galletly forced Olympic ‘keeper Scott Basalaj into a diving save, after his shot was heading goalwards.
Melville kept trying to push forward and eventually it left them exposed as the game entered stoppage time.
Sinclair was able to dash down the right wing and cross to Bouzoukis to turn it into the net for Olympic’s fourth goal.
The match was played on Gower Park’s No. 6 pitch, the first competitive first-team match on it since 2003, when the pitch was configured east-west rather than north-south.
The switch from Gower Park No. 1 was made necessary by current upgrading of the premier pitch, and club volunteers had to groom the alternative pitch, fence it off and instal temporary seating.
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Charlie Beale 19′, Riley Bidois 29′)
Auckland United 2 (Regont Murati 33′, Hiroyoshi Kamata 67′)
Melville United 0
Wellington Olympic 4 (Kailan Gould 17′, Jack-Henry Sinclair 52′, Gianni Bouzoukis 55′, 90′)
Games played on Saturday October 8, 2022
Christchurch United 1 (Jordan Spain 55′)
Napier City Rovers 1 (Jonathan McNamara 61′)
Miramar Rangers 2 (Hamish Watson 45+3′ pen, Josh Rogerson 74′)
Birkenhead United 4 (Dane Schnell 12′, 90+1′, Alex Connor-McClean 54′, Luke Jorgenson 81′)
Auckland City 2 (Ryan de Vries 54′, Adam Mitchell 80′)
Cashmere Technical 0