A few weeks ago I promised League 2’s Albany Green Machine that, if they won their cup Semi-Final, I would start my weekly round up by acknowledging this feat, and congratulating them on their efforts. So, being a man of my word, that is exactly what I plan to do… Well played Albany Green Machine… You did your division proud!
One-one after 90 minutes, two-two after extra time and then a 5-4 penalty shoot out victory that sees AGM, the League Two newbies, progress in to finals day and into the Cup Final at their first attempt. Great work, and possibly the biggest upset of the round… I say “possibly” because AGM’s reward for preventing the newly crowned League 1 Champions Dalian FC from possibly claiming a League-Cup double is a final against the team that finished top of the Over 35s Master Conference. That’s right, the Old Fellas from out West proved age is no match for experience by overcoming their League 1 opponents, Zamantix Force, in a nine goal thriller, winning 6-3. Can the Old Fellas win the most unlikely of doubles (the Conference and the Lower League Cup)?
Kiwi True Blue’s dreams of doing the double on finals day were also ended at the Semi-Final stage. Last year’s Double winners, Internationale, needed extra time to overcome this year’s Premiership champions KTB and secure their spot at Finals Day on Sept 16th. Inter scored the first and the last three goals to win it 5-3 in extra time. KTB led 2-1 and 3-2 in the first half and had a penalty saved in the first period of extra time, with the game sitting a 3-3. Inter Coach, Matt Hunt, described the contest as a; “real see-saw epic tussle, great game for the neutral, not so for us coaching”. Inter will now face the team that currently sits between them and KTB in the Premiership League table in an all Premiership Cup Final. Zamantix Rovers Deuce’s 2-0 win over HNK Auckland in the other Semi-Final ended the Croatian Club’s own attempts at a league-cup double. Can Inter successfully defend the trophy they won last year, or will it be Zamantix’s turn to lift the silverware?
The Semi-Finals of the our two Plate competitions also saw a couple of upsets, with the Premiership’s Auckland Volcanoes denied the opportunitiy to go for a three-peat at Finals Day. The 2016 and 2017 winners were knocked out 3-0 by the Championship’s FC Eagles. Western Wanderers, who started the year in the Championship, will be looking to become the first, potentially only, team from outside one of our top two divisions to win the Premiership-Championship Plate, having overcome Khukuri 4-2 in the second Semi-Final. AUT FC 2 ensured that the club would have a team at Finals Day for the third time in four years, beating a team that sit three places and nine points above them in League 1. A confidence-boosting 2-1 win over Kamarak ensures that the team who sits five points adrift at the bottom of League 1 will go into these final rounds believing that they could still overcome the odds and escape relegation. If not, at least they’ve got a final to look forward to on the 16th. Furthermore, Viet Stars 4-0 win over City Fringe in the other Plate Semi-Final means that AUT FC are the only League 1 team left in the two lower league knock out competitions. Will it be third time lucky for their player-manager Ivan?
Elsewhere, there were three catch up games played over the weekend, including a Friday night Premiership fixture played under the lights at Michaels Avenue. A 2-0 win for Bohemian Celtics means that their hosts, Auckland Wanderers, will now have to wait a couple of weeks to find out whether their twelve points will be enough to see their two year stay in the top division come to an end with relegation into the Championship. Their fate is in the hands of seventh-placed Independiente, who sit two points behind with one game still to play (against Volcanoes). This coming week sees Inter play Volcanoes in what is effectively a battle for second place. The week after will see Inter play KTB in a repeat of last Sunday’s “epic” cup Semi-Final.
Whilst the University of Auckland FC’s decision to default yet enough Championship fixture handed United FC the 3 points and a 3-0 win, their unofficial sister team in League 1, the Spermwhales, showed their class in a hard fought 3-2 win over second place Nixon Park. The result not only closes the gap between the two teams to two points, but also means that Dalian can no longer be caught at the top and, whilst the double is no longer an option, Dalian can at least celebrate the fact that they are Champions. Serious FC and U-Striker played out a pretty ugly, bad-tempered, 2-2 draw in the final remaining fixture of this year’s Masters Conference.
Eight games were scheduled to be played this coming sunday, including almost a full round of League 1 fixtures. Dalian face Nixon for the third and final time of the season, and the two Zamantix teams (Rovers Return and Force) face off against each other at Bill McKinley Park. The Spermwhales host City Fringe and Western Wanderers host AUT FC 2 in the other two League 1 games. UOAFC will take no further part in the rest of this season, having defaulted too many games due to a lack of players. Their remaining games, starting this weekend against Champions-elect HNK, will all be recorded as 3-0 losses. Bohs Celtics face United in the other Championship fixture scheduled, whilst the Waitakere Rangers host second placed AGM in the final remaining fixture of the League Two season (Rangers have already confirmed their spot in League 1 next year, whilst AGM can do the same assuming they don’t lose by eleven of more goals or get caught breaking the rules).