Guardiola goal helps Falcons draw

CLAY WILSON
Last updated 07:29 25/02/2013

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The NZ King Salmon Nelson Falcons were made to pay for their lack of execution in front of goal in Palmerston North yesterday as a scrappy late goal earned Youngheart Manawatu a 1-1 draw in a round eight ASB Youth League match dominated by the visiting side.

Yet another brilliant solo effort from Marlborough-based striker Omar Guardiola put Falcons ahead midway through the first half. The pint-sized dynamo collected the ball on the edge of the box, skipped past three defenders and calmly deposited the ball into the far corner. It was just reward for Falcons who had been threatening the Manawatu goal.

However, thanks to an outstanding display from Manawatu's goalkeeper and an inability from Nelson to convert their constant pressure into more goals, they were unable to extend their lead and a 90th minute equaliser to the home side ensured a share of the points.

In one of Manawatu's rare foray's into the Nelson box, the ball bobbled around before taking a rebound off a Nelson defender and falling at the feet of a Manawatu player, who slotted it home.

While he was understandably disappointed not to come away with the three points, Falcons head coach Davor Tavich preferred to focus on the positives at the end of the match.

"I am disappointed, not with the effort but with not being able to score more goals. I thought we played very well and we moved and passed the ball very well, but we just couldn't finish our opportunities. We definitely deserved the three points.

"Territory, possession and football-wise it was pretty much one-way traffic . . . their goalkeeper was outstanding. If it hadn't been for him we could have scored five goals, but there was also a lack of execution from us."

A number of players were in the running for man of the match honours, but in the end the plaudits went to Fletcher Slierendrecht, who was tireless and sparked countless Falcons attacks on the right side of midfield. Defenders Taylor Hall-Jones and captain Mark Johnston were once again very strong, while Guardiola also warranted a mention for the constant trouble he caused the Manawatu defence and his strength on the ball.

The result rules fourth-placed Falcons out of the running to win the five-team southern conference and reach the league final, with matches against second-placed Otago in Dunedin and third-placed Wellington in Nelson still to play.

Despite that, Tavich remained upbeat and was confident his side could finish strongly in their inaugural season and record two wins.

"Everything was positive apart from the result . . . the team is still improving and by the time we next play in Nelson I am sure our supporters will notice that."

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In the other southern conference match, competition leaders Canterbury United beat Wellington 1-0 in Wellington.

- The Marlborough Express

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