The Futsal National League title has been away from the mainland for two years but is now back in Christchurch after Canterbury United timed their run perfectly in the last bout of this season’s action over the weekend in Auckland.
ASB Stadium in Kohimarama played host to both the final throes of the round robin and the subsequent play-offs, which brought Auckland, WaiBOP, Canterbury and Southern together to battle it out for the right to be crowned champions.
The semi-finals both pitched neighbouring teams against each other for a pair of local derbies with defending champions Auckland meeting WaiBOP and Canterbury facing fellow South Islanders Southern.
Hosts Auckland would have gone into the knockout stage full of confidence after becoming the only side to go through the weekend’s round robin play with a perfect record but then lost form at the crucial time, allowing WaiBOP to claim a comprehensive 6-1 win. Bahram Ahmadi was the hero for the victors with a hat-trick while Logan Wisnewski scored twice and Sam Masterson also got on the scoresheet. Auckland’s only response came from Futsal Whites captain Marvin Eakins.
The other semi-final was also an upset but by a much closer margin as Canterbury narrowly edged out a Southern side that had just finished top of the league. Southern had lost only two matches all season and topped the table by eight points over nearest challengers Auckland so were very much favoured to progress to the final.
But Canterbury had clearly not read the script as strikes from Andre Luiz Pestana and Benji Lapslie were supplemented by an own goal to give them a memorable 3-2 win. After startling slowly, Southern showed good resolve to haul themselves back into the contest through goals from Carlos Herrmann and Michael Sannum but couldn’t find the net for a vital third time.
Although disappointed with the result, Southern coach Darren Hart was full of praise for how his side had performed across the season.
“It’s a really unexpected position for these guys to be in, they’ve never been in a situation where they’re going into games as the team who probably should win it on the basis of form and everything,” he said.
“This experience will make them much better for next year because they will have been in this situation. In previous years, we probably wouldn’t have clawed it back from where we were in that semi-final so it shows the depth and pride we’ve got in the team that we did force them all the way to the end. Even with ten seconds to go we were forcing saves and everything – we went out with our heads held high.”
The eye-catching semi-final outcomes resulted in a winner-takes-all meeting between WaiBOP and Canterbury, who had finished third and fourth on the ladder respectively.
After a closely-fought first half, Canterbury took control in the second period and eventually ran out as comfortable 5-1 winners, thanks largely to a pair of doubles by Evandro Madruga and Luis Augusto Ebrahim. The other goal was scored by Matt Bergin while Bahram Ahmadi supplied WaiBOP’s consolation.
“It’s been a really tough year but we managed to pull it together for the final series,” Canterbury coach Ronan Naicker said.
“Both semi-finals were such high quality and any one of those teams could have gone on to win it. We were a bit fortunate I think because we played in the first one and WaiBOP were pretty knackered by the final – we took advantage of that. The aim of the game was to control possession, make them do the running and take our chances. We didn’t do that so much in the first half but we did in the second,” he added.
“I have to say well done to WaiBOP though. I’ve enjoyed watching those guys throughout the whole season, the style of futsal they’re playing and the young guys that are coming through are a credit to them.”
For the final standings and results in the Futsal National League please click here
Futsal National League
National Travelling Series – Northern Division Hosting
Northern Futsal 3 (Elliot Cooper, Nikola Velkovski, Daniel Culpan)
Capital Futsal 3 (Khalid Razouk, Luc Saker, Isaac O’Hara)
AFF Futsal 5 (Dylan Manickum 2, Stephen Ashby, Sander Waterland, Marvin Eakins)
Southern United 0
WaiBOP Futsal 7 (Shaun Morgan, Sam Masterson, Jordan Ditfort, Brayden Lissington, Jono Tobias , Liam Steffert, own goal)
Central Futsal-Manawatu 5 (Ben Ravenwood, Jonathan Steele, Lucian Armstrong, own goal 2)
Central Futsal-Hawke’s Bay 1 (Josh Stevenson)
Canterbury United 7 (Benji Lapslie 3, Tom McGowan 2, Shannen Vailuu, Evandro Madruga)
AFF Futsal 10 (Stephen Ashby 3, Jimmy Banks 2, Aalok Paudel 2, Bakr Al-Saudi, Kareem Osman, own goal)
Capital Futsal 2 (Luc Saker 2)
WaiBOP Futsal 2 (Liam Steffert, Brayden Lissington)
Southern United 6 (Ben O’Farrell 3, Carlos Herrmann, Michael Sannum, Daniel de Souza)
Northern Futsal 2 (Art Twigg, Daniel Culpan)
Canterbury United 7 (Benji Lapslie 2, Shannen Vailuu, James Vallance, Mitch Webber, Tom McGowan, Evandro Madruga)
Central Futsal-Hawke’s Bay 3 (Josh Stevenson 2, Ethan Dent)
Central Futsal-Manawatu 3 (Jonathan Steele 2, own goal)
WaiBOP Futsal 3 (Jordan Ditfort, Jono Tobias, Mahmood Alfarraji)
Capital Futsal 1 (Fraser Norrington)
AFF Futsal 4 (Dylan Manickum, Stephen Ashby, Myron Manickum, Arzan Todywalla)
Canterbury United 1 (Rami Dawwas)
Central Futsal-Hawke’s Bay 2 (Josh Stevenson, Campbell Whitworth)
Southern United 3 (Sean McIntee 2, Michael Taylor)
Northern Futsal 6 (Elliot Cooper 2, Oliver Walsh, Art Twigg, Denny Twigg, Abdallah Amleh)
Central Futsal-Manawatu 2 (Nathan Cooksley 2)
WaiBOP Futsal 0
Canterbury United 1 (Benji Lapslie)
Central Futsal-Hawke’s Bay 4 (Josh Stevenson 2, Liam Shackleton, Luke Morgan)
Capital Futsal 4 (Isaac O’Hara 2, Thomas Withnall, Fraser Norrington)
AFF Futsal 3 (Stephen Ashby, Sander Waterland, Adam Paulsen)
Central Futsal-Manawatu 2 (Ben Ravenwood, Lucian Armstrong)
Northern Futsal 1 (Barry Grehan)
Southern United 3 (Benjamin Wallace 2, Reid Hulleman)
Southern United 2 (Carlos Herrmann, Michael Sannum)
Canterbury United 3 (Andre Luiz Pestana, Benji Lapslie, own goal)
AFF Futsal 1 (Marvin Eakins)
WaiBOP Futsal 6 (Bahram Ahmadi 3, Logan Wisnewski 2, Sam Masterson)
Canterbury United 5 (Evandro Madruga 2, Luis Augusto Ebrahim 2, Matt Bergin)
WaiBOP Futsal 1 (Bahram Ahmadi)