Team Wellington coach eyes grandfinal
There was a good reason for the lack of emotion in Matt Calcott's voice.
The first-year coach might have just guided his Team Wellington side to next week's New Zealand Football Championship grand final but, for him, the ultimate job remained undone.
Up 1-0 against the previously unbeaten Auckland City, after last Sunday's semifinal first leg at Newtown Park, Team Wellington went to Kiwitea St, Auckland, yesterday and beat last season's finalists 3-1.
Calcott's team will now meet defending champions Waitakere United in Sunday's grand final in Auckland, after Waitakere beat Canterbury United 5-2 yesterday, to win their tie 5-3 on aggregate.
For Team Wellington, who were fourth after the 14-game regular season, getting to the decider is a heck of an achievement. "But it all counts for nothing if we're not top dollar next week," said Calcott.
Playing at what has traditionally been an absolute fortress, Team Wellington quickly stormed the barricades yesterday when Henry Fa'arodo latched on to a weak David Mulligan back pass after 25 minutes and slotted the ball past goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley.
"That changed the complexion of everything, really. Once we scored early, they needed three goals [to win the tie]," Calcott said.
That need for goals ultimately killed Auckland. Obligated to commit men forward, they got some reward in the 71st minute, when Manel Exposito scored.
Ten minutes later, though, Dakota Lucas beat Spoonley to another errant pass, making it 2-1. Exposito blew up at referee Chris Kerr, and got himself sent off, and then Lucas sealed the tie on fulltime, when he caught Auckland on the break.
Few people would have fancied Team Wellington at the start of the tie. But their eventual 4-1 aggregate win could hardly be more emphatic.
Calcott said it was no more than Team Wellington's "quality deserved" before adding that they hadn't "achieved anything yet".
"To win 4-1 over two legs is great but there's no point in doing all that hard work and then not turning up next week."
Aside from the title being at stake, there's also the chance to qualify for the Oceania Champions League.
Auckland already have one berth, after winning the minor premiership, and victory over Waitakere would see Team Wellington progress to that echelon of football for the first time.
At one stage yesterday, it looked like Canterbury would be the other team in the grand final.
One-nil away winners in the first leg, they were 2-1 up in the second leg within 30 minutes.
But four second-half goals by Waitakere ensured they would live on to defend their title at home on Sunday.
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The Dominion Post