Two late second half goals confirmed the make-up of the ASB Premiership top four on Sunday as Hawke’s Bay United recorded a 2-0 victory over Loaded WaiBOP United at Bluewater Stadium in Napier and ended our play-off dreams.
After a scoreless first half between the two sides still in contention for the playoff spots, Hawke’s Bay United substitutes Fabien Kurimata and Paul Ifill combined to end the doubt about which teams would contest the semi-finals in three weeks time.
The result moved Hawke’s Bay United – last season’s Grand Finalists – level on 24 points with second-placed Team Wellington, five adrift of leaders Auckland City after their match against Canterbury United was postponed following the earthquake in Christchurch on Sunday afternoon.
WaiBOP, needing a victory to stay in the hunt for the top four, had the first chance of the game but a terrific one-on-one save from Josh Hill after just five minutes saw the match remain scoreless.
The hosts also had good chances of their own in the opening 45 minutes but Cory Chettleburgh’s 44th minute volley was expertly saved by Zac Speedy in the WaiBOP goal before Martin Canales saw his acrobatic overhead kick fly inches wide of the visitors’ goal just before the break.
Chances came at both ends as the second half unfolded – Hawke’s Bay’s Sam Mason-Smith clipping over the bar following a neat one-two after 10 minutes while WaiBOP’s Sanni Issa was denied by another excellent save from Hill soon after.
Mario Ilich came close to putting his side ahead in the 80th minute but his shot from outside the area was rifled just inches wide and soon after Hawke’s Bay took a decisive lead.
Kurimata, through on goal one-on-one with Speedy, dribbled around the WaiBOP ‘keeper before slotting his effort home into the bottom corner for a crucial 1-0 advantage with seven minutes to go.
WaiBOP responded with their playoff lives on the line and Hill was again called into action a few minutes later, superbly tipping over a goal-bound effort to keep his side in front
But with time winding down substitute Ifill sealed the result with his 90th minute capper – turning beyond Tyler Lissette in the penalty area and firing home beyond Speedy.
Loaded WaiBOP United coach Peter Smith reflected on a game which ultimately saw his side fall short once again despite crafting a number of chances to get the result they needed to stay in the hunt.
“I’m obviously disappointed to lose 2-0, I didn’t think it was a 2-0 game but at the end of the day the scoreboard doesn’t lie,” Smith said.
“We had our chances and never took them but credit to Hawke’s Bay.
“We came into the game thinking we still had a chance to make the playoffs but obviously that door has been firmly shut now.”
Hawke’s Bay United 2-0 Loaded WaiBOP United (ht: 0-0)
HB: Fabien Kurimati 83, Paul Ifill 90′.
Hawke’s Bay United: Josh Hill; Sean Liddicoat, Kohei Matsumoto (Fabien Kurimata 53′), Fin Milne, Cory Chettleburgh, Tom Biss (Cheauxyan Maukau 79′), Zane Sole, Sam Mason-Smith (Paul Ifill 72′), Andrew Blake, Martin Canales, Birhanu Taye. Subs: Kyle Baxter (rgk), Harrison Nash.
Loaded WaiBOP United: Zac Speedy; Scott Hilliar, Ryan Tinsley, Tyler Lissette, Finn Cochran; Alexis Varela, Mario Ilich (Dylan Stansfield 81′); Wade Molony, Sanni Issa, Federico Marquez (Sean Morris 67′); Stephen Hoyle. Subs: Neil Achary (rgk), James Hoyle, Cory Mitchell.