Canterbury teen Yamamoto lifts Dragons' game
Teenage midfielder Ken Yamamoto's first national league goals for almost two years helped Canterbury United snap a three-game losing streak with a commanding 4-1 win in yesterday's southern derby in Dunedin.
The 18-year-old made the most of his first start of the ASB premiership season to stun Otago United with Canterbury's opening goal in the 28th minute and complete the rout with a 75th-minute strike.
Yamamoto, who represented New Zealand at an under-17 World Cup finals, had scored only once before in the premiership when he came off the bench at Auckland City as a 16-year-old substitute to clinch Canterbury a playoffs berth in March 2011.
"I hadn't scored since that game, so I just wanted to go out and score some goals again," said Yamamoto, whose confidence had been boosted by two goals as a second-half substitute in a midweek match against the Wellington Phoenix Reserves late last year.
"I've just been training quite well, waiting for the opportunity for my first start. I just wanted to make the most of it."
He got his chance yesterday when coach Keith Braithwaite moved to a 4-4-2 formation with Russell Kamo playing up alongside striker Ash Wellbourn. Yamamoto was preferred to 2012 player of the year, Andy Barton, on the left flank with Aaron Clapham - back from a one-match ban - joining Chris Murphy in central midfield.
The tweak worked a treat, with Yamamoto repaying Braithwaite's faith and Canterbury attacking with much more verve than in their recent reverses to Waitakere United, Auckland City and Team Wellington.
"We were in control from the first minute to the last," Braithwaite said. "It was a really good team performance. Everyone knew we had to stand up from last week and everyone did. We passed and moved the ball really well, Chris Murphy worked really hard in midfield, Ken Yamamoto came in and did the job on the left and came up with a couple of goals and Andy [Barton] came on and scored the third goal with his first touch of the ball."
Canterbury made light of the humid conditions under the fixed roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium and their two youngest players combined for the first goal with Yamamoto heading home Louie Bush's pinpoint cross after 28 minutes.
The Dragons doubled their lead five minutes later when Wellbourn, who had had a blistering shot blocked earlier, beat two Otago defenders and keeper Liam Little for his third goal of the season.
Any chance of a southern comeback disappeared after Scott Gannon was banished in the 66th minute when Barton made it 3-0 two minutes later and Yamamoto sealed the deal with a sizzling strike.
The Dragons have closed to two points of third-placed Hawke's Bay and three of Auckland City after those teams drew 1-1 yesterday.