Two late second half goals confirmed the make-up of the ASB Premiership top four on Sunday as Hawke’s Bay United recorded a 2-0 victory over WaiBOP United at Bluewater Stadium in Napier.
After a scoreless first half between the two sides still in contention for the playoff spots, Hawke’s Bay United substitutes Fabien Kurimata and Paul Ifill combined to end the doubt about which teams would contest the semi-finals in three weeks time.
The result moved Hawke’s Bay United – last season’s Grand Finalists – level on 24 points with second-placed Team Wellington, five adrift of leaders Auckland City after their match against Canterbury United was postponed following the earthquake in Christchurch on Sunday afternoon.
WaiBOP, needing a victory to stay in the hunt for the top four, had the first chance of the game but a terrific one-on-one save from Josh Hill after just five minutes saw the match remain scoreless.
The hosts also had good chances of their own in the opening 45 minutes but Cory Chettleburgh’s 44th minute volley was expertly saved by Zac Speedy in the WaiBOP goal before Martin Canales saw his acrobatic overhead kick fly inches wide of the visitors’ goal just before the break.
Chances came at both ends as the second half unfolded – Hawke’s Bay’s Sam Mason-Smith clipping over the bar following a neat one-two after 10 minutes while WaiBOP’s Sanni Issa was denied by another excellent save from Hill soon after.
Mario Ilich came close to putting his side ahead in the 80th minute but his shot from outside the area was rifled just inches wide and soon after Hawke’s Bay took a decisive lead.
Kurimata, through on goal one-on-one with Speedy, dribbled around the WaiBOP ‘keeper before slotting his effort home into the bottom corner for a crucial 1-0 advantage with seven minutes to go.
90' GOOOOAL Paul Ifill clinical turning Lissette on the top of the 18 yard box and finishing past keeper Zach Speedy #HBvWB
— HB United (@HawkesBayUnited) February 14, 2016
WaiBOP responded with their playoff lives on the line and Hill was again called into action a few minutes later, superbly tipping over a goal-bound effort to keep his side in front
But with time winding down substitute Ifill sealed the result with his 90th minute capper – turning beyond Tyler Lissette in the penalty area and firing home beyond Speedy.
Hawke’s Bay United coach Brett Angell paid credit to his two second half substitutes who struck both goals for his side in the important clash.
“It was a real tough game in very hot conditions,” Angell said.
“All we needed was the goal, it took an awful long time to come. Both impact players have come on and done exactly what we wanted by making an impact and getting goals.”
“We capitalised on a little bit of a mistake, Fabien with a fresh pair of legs tucked it away and we’ve got our goal that we’d been waiting 80-odd minutes to get.”
Angell said that the focus of his side will now turn to claiming second place with two games to go against Team Wellington and Waitakere United.
“If we can take maximum points from the two games that could be enough to give us the second spot. But saying it and doing it are two different things.”
WaiBOP United coach Peter Smith reflected on a game which ultimately saw his side fall short once again despite crafting a number of chances to get the result they needed to stay in the hunt.
“I’m obviously disappointed to lose 2-0, I didn’t think it was a 2-0 game but at the end of the day the scoreboard doesn’t lie,” Smith said.
“We had our chances and never took them but credit to Hawke’s Bay.
“We came into the game thinking we still had a chance to make the playoffs but obviously that door has been firmly shut now.”
ASB Premiership 2015-16 – Round 12
Sunday 14 February
Hawke’s Bay United 2-0 WaiBOP United (half: 0-0)
HB: Fabien Kurimata 83’, Paul Ifill 90’