Wellington Olympic have become the first team to make sure of a spot in the December 4 Grand Final for the Men’s National League.
A 7-1 drubbing of Christchurch United has given the Central League champions a place in the final and Auckland City can confirm they’ll be their opponents if they beat Miramar Rangers on Sunday.
Wins by Birkenhead United and Melville United on Saturday mean they and Auckland United retain a theoretical chance of reaching the final — but only if Auckland City are beaten by bottom team Miramar Rangers and then flop to Melville next weekend.
Here’s our round-up of Saturday’s matches:
Main photo: Birkenhead United players surround goalscorer Dylan Hobson after his opening goal.
Randall nets four as Olympic crush Christchurch
Jessie Randall led the charge with four goals as Wellington Olympic pounded Christchurch United 7-1 at Petone Memorial Park.
He opened the scoring after seven minutes when he followed up a Jonty Roubos shot that was parried by United ‘keeper Scott Morris, tapping it into the net from an angle.
Ben Mata doubled Olympic’s lead in the 16th minute, scoring from the penalty spot.
Dan MacLennan pulled back a goal for United in the 18th minute.
Gianni Bouzoukis scored Olympic’s third goal when he got on the end of a cross and volleyed it home in the 22nd minute.
With only a quarter of the game gone, the Wellington side were 3-1 ahead and looking dangerous with every attack.
Five minutes before the break, Olympic stretched their lead to 4-1 with a pearl of a goal.
It started with goalkeeper Scott Basalaj whose quick throw started a lightning-fast counter attack. Roubos fed Randall who then threaded a ball between defenders for Bouzoukis to clinically finish from 10 metres.
Ten minutes into the second spell, Jack-Henry Sinclair was the provider and Randall the finisher when Olympic scored their fifth goal.
A few minutes later, Randall completed his hat-trick with an excellent strike from the edge of the area, following good work by Roubos.
Randall’s fourth goal came courtesy of a generous Christchurch United defence who left him unmarked in the area and able to cash in on a pass from Kailan Gould.
Birkenhead move into third place with win against Auckland United
Birkenhead United beat Auckland United 2-0 with a goal in each half to the delight of their fans at Shepherds Park.
They took the lead in the 37th minute when Dylan Hobson hit a scorcher of a direct free kick from outside the area, the ball dipping beneath the bar and out of reach of ‘keeper Mack Waite.
After turning around with a 1-0 lead, Birkenhead pushed forward early in the second half, knowing they needed nothing less than a win.
They broke through again in the 50th minute when a free kick floated into the Auckland United box was not dealt with by defenders and Birkenhead’s Corban Piper made contact, steering it into the net.
The home side managed the rest of the game well, minimising the opportunities for Auckland United and coping well with a series of free kicks and corners.
The only black mark for Birkenhead came with the late sending off of goalscorer Piper, for a clumsy tackle that earned him a second yellow card. He’ll miss next week’s game against Wellington Phoenix.
Melville edge Rovers in 4-3 goalfest
Spectators enjoyed a seven-goal thriller at Hamilton’s Gower Park as Melville United won their last home game of the season 4-3 against Napier City Rovers.
All seven goals came in a frantic first half in which the sides went for broke.
Christian Leonard opened the scoring for Rovers in the fourth minute.
Striker Oliver Colloty levelled for Melville in the ninth minute before an own goal credited to Fergus Neil gave the home side a 2-1 lead.
Stafford Dowling increased Melville’s lead to 3-1 with a goal midway through the half but Rovers bounced back almost immediately with a strongly-struck goal from Sho Goto.
Josh Galletly took Melville’s lead to 4-2 in the 38th minute, bending home a free kick from just outside the area.
As the half went into added time, Rovers’ Neil compensated for his own goal with a goal at the other end, scored from the penalty spot.
Half-time: Melville United 4, Napier City Rovers 3.
The second half lacked goals but not incidents.
Rovers were awarded a penalty for a foul that the home side players unsuccessfully argued was outside the box.
Neil stepped up for his second spot kick of the game but his shot was saved by United ‘keeper Max Tommy at full stretch.
Rovers increasingly looked the side most likely to score but the Melville defence clung on and fought for every ball till the final whistle.
For Melville, it was their fourth win in a row and a chance for home fans to farewell coach Sam Wilkinson who steps down from the role after next weekend’s last fixture.
Games played on Saturday November 19, 2022
Wellington Olympic 7 (Jesse Randall 8′, 56′, 60′, 79′, Ben Mata 16′, Gianni Bouzoukis 22′, 40′)
Christchurch United 1 (Dan MacLennan 18′)
Birkenhead United 2 (Dylan Hobson 37′, Corban Piper 50′)
Auckland United 0
Melville United 4 (Oliver Colloty 9′, own goal 13′, Stafford Dowling 22′, Joshua Galletly 38′)
Napier City Rovers 3 (Christian Leopard 4′, Sho Goto 25′, Fergus Neil 45’+1′ pen)
Games to be played on Sunday November 20, 2022
Auckland City v Miramar Rangers
Kiwitea St, Sandringham, 3pm
Cashmere Technical v Wellington Phoenix
English Park, Christchurch, 4pm
Who plays who next weekend
Game to be played on Friday November 25, 2022
Christchurch United v Cashmere Technical
Christchurch Football Centre, Christchurch, 7pm
Games to be played on Saturday November 26, 2022
Auckland United v Napier City Rovers
Keith Hay Park, Mt Roskill, 1pm
Auckland City v Melville United
Kiwitea St, Sandringham, 3pm
Wellington Phoenix v Birkenhead United
Fraser Park, Wellington, 1pm
Miramar Rangers v Wellington Olympic
David Farrington Park, Wellington, 3pm