Canterbury upset Wellington Phoenix reserves
Two strikes from Ken Yamamoto and an Aaron Clapham classic earned Canterbury United a deserved 3-2 win over the Wellington Phoenix Reserves last night.
Yamamoto had the English Park crowd on their feet when he swept home his second goal in the 84th minutes to fire the Dragons into the lead for the first time in an entertaining match.
But Clapham's class was the catalyst. The former All White started and finished an intricate passing move in the 32nd minute to put Canterbury back on level terms after Hamish Watson's 25th minute opener for the Phoenix.
Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert missed a chance to see Clapham close-up. The All Whites mentor was due to come to Christchurch for the game but opted to remain in Wellington.
Had he been in the stands he could have seen for himself what the Dragons crowd witnesses every week - Clapham - selected for a sixth consecutive time in the ASB Premiership Team of the Month - should be a fully-fledged Phoenix professional.
Canterbury coach Keith Braithwaite withdrew Clapham at halftime to rest him for Sunday's crucial national premiership clash with co-leaders Hawke's Bay United.
The Dragons lost a little momentum after the interval without their midfield playmaker but Yamamoto certainly proved an able and influential replacement.
The 18-year-old, lurking on the left flank, caused the Phoenix defence some flutters with his well-timed runs.
Spanish midfielder Dani Sanchez did his chances of an A-League callup no harm by putting the Phoenix ahead 2-1 five minutes after the interval after the workaholic Watson beat Andy Barton all ends-up and delivered a perfect cross into the box.
Yamamoto was robbed by a wrong offside call after receiving a slide-rule pass from impressive Canterbury defender Vladimir Bayrev.
But there was no doubting the authenticity of his 70th-minute equaliser. Chris Murphy, who got stronger in central midfield as the match progressed, picked out Yamamoto, who made no mistake from the left-hand edge of the penalty area.
Canterbury played all the football in the final quarter and Braithwaite played his final trump card - national league player of the month Russell Kamo.
Kamo and Michael Fifii added additional zip to the Dragons attack, which had the Phoenix rearguard, marshalled by All Whites centreback Michael Boxall, back-pedalling.
Yamamoto delivered the killer blow six minutes from fulltime when he ghosted in unchecked, behind a ball-watching Phoenix defence, which failed to cut out Vladimir Bayrev's pinpoint freekick.
The teenager was Canterbury's obvious hero but there were plenty of other encouraging performances in the Dragons camp.
Ash Wellbourn proved in his first start that he belongs at national league level.
The 22-year-old striker showed some neat flicks and tricks and held up the ball well.
He combined well in the first half with Clapham and Dimitar Bayrev.
Darren White, wide on the right, played with plenty of vim and vigour and the back-four recovered from a soft concession of Watson's goal to keep Phoenix chances to a minimum.