The National Women’s Futsal League title has headed across the Tasman after Australian guests the Bayside Pirates claimed a 4-3 win over AFF Futsal in the final at ASB Sports Centre in Wellington on Sunday.
Auckland took the lead through Maxine Cooper’s tap-in at the back post while goalkeeper Danielle Bradley was forced into a good save low to her right.
But Auckland’s major problem was the rapid concession of fouls, racking up four inside the first six minutes. Bayside Pirates failed to take advantage of any of their free-kicks as Auckland tried to see out the first half without conceding a fifth foul before the break.
But Rebecca Davies levelled the match from the penalty mark after Auckland conceded their sixth foul of the half with just two minutes left on the clock.
Davies was heaping pressure on Auckland with her shooting prowess leading to the Australians’ second just after the restart. She completed her hat-trick 10 minutes into the second half with a brilliant right-foot shot that went top corner to make it 3-1.
Auckland immediately deployed their fifth player power play in an attempt to claw their way back into the contest. But Bradley was called into action to make a double save from Ilona Jakab and keep Auckland in the match with six minutes left.
The fifth player tactic nearly paid dividends for Auckland when Hannah Kraakman found space on the right and almost lobbed goalkeeper Bethany Mason-Jones then saw another effort strike the post. But the game appeared to be up when Emily Coppock scored the Pirates’ fourth to hand the Australians a commanding 4-1 lead.
Hannah Kraakman threw Auckland a lifeline when Dayna Manak beat two players before whipping in a low cross that the skipper finished superbly from close range with three minutes left.
Shivy Anthony then got in on the act with a superb goal to pull Auckland back to within one of Bayside and set up a nerve-wracking final two minutes. But the Pirates held on to win a memorable final and take the title to Australia.
Captain Kraakman said defeat was difficult to take but Auckland can at least lay claim to being the country’s best after finishing as the highest-placed New Zealand side.
“It was disappointing to lose,” she said. “But I’m proud of the team and the way we came back strongly with the power play. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t quite get there in the end.”
Defending champions Central-Manawatu had to settle for third place this time after losing 2-1 to Auckland in the semi-finals before beating Canterbury United Pride 5-3 in the third-place play-off. Canterbury pushed the Bayside Pirates hard in the other semi-final before coming up just short in a 4-3 thriller.
National Women’s Futsal League
Champions: Bayside Pirates (Victoria, Australia)
Runners-up: AFF Futsal
Fourth: Canterbury United Pride
Most Valuable Player: Maxine Cooper (AFF)
Golden Boot: Britney-Lee Nicholson (Canterbury), Maxine Cooper (Auckland) – 8 goals each
Golden Glove: Bethany Mason-Jones (Bayside)
Reporting by the Auckland Football Federation