Three games, three draws … and no shortage of late drama. That was the summary of Saturday’s round three games in the Men’s National League.
Despite the inability for any game to produce a win, the fixtures produced two games in which the visitors fought back from two-goal deficits to salvage late draws.
Here’s our round-up of games from Saturday October 15:
Main photo: Auckland City mob Tade after his late equaliser.
Late drama as 10-man Auckland City rescue a point
Veteran striker Emiliano Tade scored late in stoppage time to salvage a draw for 10-man Auckland City in their top-of-the-table clash with Birkenhead United.
The Navy Blues came back from being 2-0 down with 10 minutes to go, and after losing their captain Cam Howieson to a red card in the 75th minute.
The dramatic finish capped a superbly-entertaining match in which both sides declared their credentials for the national title.
Birkenhead took the game to the Northern League champions right from the kick-off, going route one early to shake up the visitor’s defence — and it worked.
After only three minutes, City goalkeeper Conor Tracey put his defence under pressure when he gave away possession, allowing Birkenhead to force another early corner. This time, when the ball wasn’t cleared, it fell just right for United skipper Sam Burfoot to steer the ball into the net with an overhead shot.
City, as they have in their opening two national league games, appeared off the pace and they took till late in the first half before threatening the Birkenhead goal.
Adam Mitchell headed wide after 40 minutes, then Ryan de Vries headed a Howieson cross onto the bar.
Birkenhead started the second spell at full tilt, and again their approach paid dividends.
In the 49th minute, Nicholas Forrester had a tap-in from a corner, to make it 2-0.
Birkenhead ‘keeper Silvio Rodic was having a blinder.
He saved a de Vries shot from point-blank range, copping the ball in his face.
In the 75th minute, Howieson mis-timed a tackle on Birkenhead’s Dane Schnell and City were down to 10 men.
The incident appeared to recharge City who threw everything at the home side, while Birkenhead dropped deeper and tried to manage out the game.
In the 82nd minute, Sam Brotherton pulled back a goal with a half volley after a free kick was headed down for him.
Rodic made two more crucial saves, and Birkenhead were hanging on as the game went into added time.
With four minutes of added time played, Tade created space for a shot and rifled the ball just inside the post to score.
The City players headed under the Shepherds Park balcony, celebrating in the style of the home side.
Penalty in stoppage time earns point for Rangers at Napier
The day’s second big fightback came at Napier’s Bluewater Stadium where Miramar Rangers scored twice in the dying stages to pull off a 2-2 draw against Napier City Rovers.
Rovers had taken an early lead when a superbly-weighted through ball from Liam Schofield sent Jonathan McNamara tearing towards goal. His shot went into the net with a final touch from Rangers’ Rogerson meaning it goes into the records as an own goal.
Rangers had a couple of first-half chances but they owe much to Jorge Akers for keeping them in the game when he saved a certain goal, back-heading it over the bar in the 44th minute.
Rovers doubled their lead in the 84th minute when Andrew Abba broke from midfield and fed the ball to Christian Leopard on the left flank. He lined up a shot that snuck in at the near post.
Rangers went for broke, pushing forward and winning a succession of corners and free kicks.
With three minutes to go, substitute James Murdoch-Gibbs pulled back a goal when he hooked the ball into the net after it had been headed down to him.
Four minutes into stoppage time, Rangers were given a free-kick.
While waiting for it to be taken, Rovers sent on substitute Cameron Emerson. The free kick was hoisted into the area where it struck Emerson’s arm, prompting referee CK Kawana-Waugh to award a penalty.
Schofield and goalkeeper Oscar Mason earned yellow cards for their protests, but Sam Mason-Smith kept his cool to slot home the equaliser from the penalty spot.
Auckland United and Christchurch United in 1-1 deadlock
Auckland United and Christchurch United battled out a 1-1 draw at Keith Hay Park.
After a scoreless first half, the home side took the lead on the hour mark through Hiroyoshi Kamata.
But within four minutes, Christchurch levelled with a goal from Eddie Wilkinson.
The result prevented Auckland United from capitalising on the draw between league leaders Birkenhead and Auckland City, and they remain in third place, locked together with Napier City Rovers.
Games played on Saturday October 15, 2022
Birkenhead United 2 (Sam Burfoot 4′, Nicholas Forrester 49′)
Auckland City 2 (Sam Brotherton 82′, Emiliano Tade 90+4′)
Napier City Rovers 2 (Own goal 4′, Christian Leopard 84′)
Miramar Rangers 2 (James Murdoch-Gibbs 87′, Sam Mason-Smith 90+4′ pen)
Auckland United 1 (Hiroyoshi Kamata 61′)
Christchurch United 1 (Eddie Wilkinson 65′)
Games to be played on Sunday October 16, 2022
Wellington Phoenix (7th) v Melville United (9th)
Sky Stadium, Wellington, 12pm
Cashmere Technical (6th) v Wellington Olympic (5th)
English Park, Christchurch, 2.30pm