The front three are already starting to pull away from the pack in the Futsal National League after a goal-laden Southern Division Home Series took place in Palmerston North and Dunedin over the weekend.
The early pace-setters had been WaiBOP after they recorded a pair of wins in the inaugural Northern Division Home Series a week earlier but they have now been joined at the top of the table by Southern United and Central-Manawatu, who also both boast a perfect record after winning their opening two matches.
Central-Manawatu faced Capital twice on Saturday at the Central Energy Trusts Arena and proved too strong for the Wellingtonians on both occasions, triumphing 9-5 and 6-2 as the crowd were provided with more than their fair share of entertainment.
Joshua Smith was in top form in the first meeting between the teams, scoring a hat-trick for the hosts as Adam Cowan and Josh Margetts also helped themselves to doubles. Nathan Cooksley and Jonathan Steele added further efforts as Central-Manawatu came close to double figures while the Capital response was provided by a Lucas Da Silva brace and single strikes from Izaac O’Hara, Miroslav Malivuk and Khalid Razouk.
The second match followed a similar script with Central-Manawatu again coming out on the winning side of a high-scoring encounter. The goals this time were spread across three players with Cowan, Ashish Sahayam and Lucian Armstrong all scoring twice while Capital hit back on only two occasions through O’Hara and Razouk.
Central-Manawatu captain Cowan was pleased with his side’s showings and is bullish about their chances of going on to claim the title.
“Capital are a good team so we knew we’d have to work hard and take our opportunities when they came,” he said. “We came pretty close last year and have better depth on our bench this year so I’d say it’s the best squad we’ve ever had.”
Despite the disappointing results, former Futsal White O’Hara felt Capital performed well for the most part but were let down by some costly errors.
“We played some really good futsal but it just came down to maybe concentration lapses and giving easy goals away,” he said. “We should’ve scored some good goals but it just didn’t go in for us. A lot of the younger boys really stood out for me – it was their first tournament and they came in and did really well.”
Down south, the action played out to an almost identical pattern with one side likewise on top and a wealth of goals flying in. Southern United finished runners-up to Auckland last season and showed they are likely to be contenders again with a pair of ruthless displays against a Canterbury outfit that improved across the weekend but couldn’t convert that into a positive result.
Brazilian Daniel de Souza was the star of the first game at Dunedin’s Edgar Centre with a hat-trick while Michael Taylor, Kasam Ali, Michael Sannum, Daniel Ramsay, Sean McIntee and Benjamin Wallace also drained plenty of the scorekeeper’s ink with their goals. Canterbury’s only replies came from Benji Lapslie and Rami Dawwas but they put up much more of a fight in the second match, Lapslie finding the net again and being joined by Tom McGowan and Bara’a Toubat in the 6-3 loss.
Southern’s other star Brazilian, Carlos Herrmann, did much of the damage this time with a double but countryman de Souza, former Futsal White Sannum, captain McIntee and Ramsay all also struck again.
“We’re pretty happy, you’re never really sure what you’re going to face every year because new players come in and others go out,” Southern coach Darren Hart said.
“We’ve got eight new guys in our squad as well, four of which we’ve managed to blood at national league level over the weekend. It was good to get those guys out on the court and give them a taste because the pace is always much faster than they expect. To get two wins, have good performances all round and blood quite a lot of players is great.”
Canterbury counterpart Ronan Naicker also cited the youthfulness of some members of his group and felt their testing introduction to top futsal would prove a good learning curve.
“It was a really tough weekend but I think the boys will learn from it,” he said.
“For a lot of them, it was their first time playing in the national league and they are quite young. But they’ll get through it and use it as a stepping stone. In the end, that inexperience showed through in the key moments but the second performance was much better, the boys did well to get up for that.”
The Futsal National League takes a break this weekend but returns with the Northern Division Travelling Series from October 29 to 30, for more information and to view the full fixtures and standings please click here
Futsal National League – Southern Division Home Series
Capital Futsal 5 (Izaac O’Hara, Miroslav Malivuk, Lucas Da Silva 2, Khalid Razouk)
Central Futsal-Manawatu 9 (Adam Cowan 2, Joshua Smith 3, Josh Margetts 2, Nathan Cooksley, Jonathan Steele)
Southern United 9 (Michael Taylor, Daniel de Souza 3, Kasam Ali, Michael Sannum, Daniel Ramsay, Sean McIntee, Benjamin Wallace)
Canterbury United 2 (Benji Lapslie, Rami Dawwas)
Central Futsal-Manawatu 6 (Ashish Sahayam 2, Adam Cowan 2, Lucian Armstrong 2)
Capital Futsal 2 (Izaac O’Hara, Khalid Razouk)
Canterbury United 3 (Tom McGowan, Benji Lapslie, Bara’a Toubat)
Southern United 6 (Carlos Herrmann 2, Michael Sannum, Daniel de Souza, Daniel Ramsay, Sean McIntee)